Sam Burnham, Curator
With all the hubbub these days about pointing out the connection many of the great men of our past have to slavery it can be easy to throw out the good with the bad. Such rush to judgement has hit Thomas Jefferson, Robert E. Lee, Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson, and even the Father of our Country, George Washington.
I fear that the modern progressive urge to us slavery to purge our history of much of the greatness and to paint America in a light that demands apologies at every step in our history we have begun to lose some of what truly makes this nation great. I think Washington is an excellent example of that phenomenon.
I don't think that we should ever ignore, excuse, or forget the fact that George Washington held over 300 people in involuntary servitude in order to make Mount Vernon operate smoothly. That is as real a flaw as a human can have and without this knowledge we never can have a true understanding of the man.
But we must never allow that to become the entire Washington story. Washington was so much more than a slave owner and his actions in life have helped to forge a better nation for Americans of all races.
Washington was a successful businessman, an agricultural scientist, a farmer, a soldier, a surveyor, a politician
He pulled off some of the most storied victories in American Military History. His crossing of the Delaware and subsequent victory at Trenton we works of genius. His actions on the battlefield in both the French and Indian War and the Revolution demonstrated competence, skill, and courage. He inspired a forlorn fledgling nation and led the people to victory.
Through his service in the American Revolution, he gained a lot of power and influence. There we even members of his military circle that suggested a coup, that he seize power and become the military dictator or king. Washington responded to this by reporting to Congress upon the Treaty of Paris and resigning his military commission, handing the military to Congress and returning to Mount Vernon. It was an incredible, selfless act that left power where Washington believed it belonged, with the people.
Washington attempted to retire but was called back to service when the state delegations elected him as the President of the Constitutional Congress. You can see it in the process that the framers had Washington in mind for the President all along. And he did ascend to the presidency. His two terms set several precedents that still stand with the office today.
At the end of his second term, true to form, he hung it up. It was time for America to move forward, to not rely on Washington at every turn. It was time for change and a future. And that is what the nation had because of Washington.
Through courage and humility, Washington truly fathered this nation. He led by example and helped to lay a foundation for our system of government. These are the traits in Washington that we must never forget. We must never let the modern narrative dehumanize this giant of a man or let his influence on the greatness of America from being reduced. We stand on the shoulders of giants and Washington is one of the chiefs among them.
Consider the word of the eulogy given by General Henry "Lighthorse Harry" Lee:
“First in war- first in peace- and first in the hearts of his countrymen, he was second to none in the humble and endearing scenes of private life; pious, just, humane, temperate and sincere; uniform, dignified and commanding, his example was as edifying to all around him, as were the effects of that example lasting.”
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire