Contrary to what you may be thinking, no, I did not forget about July’s Reader of the Month post! Okay, well, maybe a little. But not so much so that I forgot about it completely. With just one scrap of a day to spare, I’d like to present to you,”George Washington, Reconsidered,” an article written by my mom. She recently finished a biography about George Washington by Ron Chernow, the same biographer who wrote Alexander Hamilton, the book from which the wildly popular musical draw inspiration. I’ll wrap up this intro quickly, but before I do, thank you, Mom, for stepping in at the last minute (after I begged you to help me out of this jam) and being July’s Reader of the Month!
George Washington, Reconsidered
By: Legally Brunette’s Mom
As the mother (and biggest fan) of The Legally Brunette, I am used to staying in the background of her blog, offering occasional grammatical suggestions but primarily sticking to the cheering section. But this month our favorite blogger asked me to contribute some thoughts of my own, so here I am.
I am going to offer a book recommendation: Washington, by Ron Chernow. Mr. Chernow is an excellent writer and biographer, whose accounts of the lives of John D.Rockefeller and Alexander Hamilton I had enjoyed prior to taking on Washington. I won’t give away all of the details of this book, but I will share some of what I learned about our first President:
- Washington was a very determined man. During the long, bloody Revolutionary War, it often appeared that he and his men would be routed by the much larger and better-equipped British army. The Continental Army suffered through brutally cold winters without warm clothing or sufficient food, were devastated in battles in New York, New Jersey and South Carolina, and constantly struggled to survive against terrible odds. At many points they teetered on the edge of outright losing the war for independence. General Washington was steadfast in his leadership and greatly respected by his men for his resolve, calm and strength. The book’s descriptions of his admirable leadership qualities and refusal to give up were inspiring to me.
- Washington learned from his mistakes. As a young military leader, Washington suffered many setbacks and lost large numbers of men during the French and Indian War and later in the Revolutionary War. He did not hide from or cover up his mistakes. He reflected deeply on his failures and worked hard to learn from them to prevent them from happening again.
- Washington was highly principled. He believed strongly that civilians should oversee the military, and acted on these beliefs. After the Revolution, he was so popular and admired that some actually suggested that he be named “King” of America. He immediately rejected that notion, and made a great ceremony of putting down his sword, resigning from his position as General and turning his authority back to Congress when the war ended. He also stepped down from the Presidency after two terms, setting the precedent for the peaceful transition of power, a cornerstone of our American democracy.
- Washington was a great President. He pioneered many of the features of the presidency that we see today, including the inaugural address, the creation of a strong Cabinet, Executive Branch, and Supreme Court, and established the Navy and our first national bank. One of my favorite stories about President Washington occurred shortly after our new nation’s first presidential election, in which he had soundly beaten John Adams of Massachusetts. Knowing that many New Englanders had supported Adams for the presidency, Washington decided that his first presidential trip outside of the nation’s capital (then New York City) would be to the New England states. He spent several weeks visiting New England to demonstrate that he was the President of all Americans, not just those who had voted for him. He also spoke at a synagogue in Rhode Island to show his respect for Americans of all faiths.
- Washington was not a perfect man. Though he often criticized the practice of slavery, he owned hundreds of slaves himself. It is strange to think that the man who fought so hard and successfully for freedom kept human beings in bondage. He often wrote and spoke about the evil of slavery, but never freed his own slaves until after his death.
Despite his shortcomings, Washington was a great leader whose military and presidential contributions deeply influence our nation to this day. I strongly recommend reading this excellent book by Ron Chernow. You will learn a lot about George Washington and especially about our nation in its earliest days of independence. Happy reading, everyone!
~The Legally Brunette