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Rusty Lee Thomas The Life of General Washington
Edited by The Reverend C.W. Upham, 1851

The history of the world, in all its scenes, and at every period, impresses upon the thoughtful student of its records a solemn sense of the amount of good and ill that has flowed from the lives and actions of a few individual men. Much, indeed, has been owing to the force of circumstances, and there have been times, when the energy and wisdom of no single person could have withstood the general current of events. But, in a great proportion of cases, we can trace the issue of things to the conduct and character of particular prominent agents. The destinies of nations and of the race are often deposited in the hands of one man.… 

We ought always to contemplate eminent men in this light, and hold them responsible to a great extent, for the influence of their conduct and character. No greater blessing can be bestowed upon a country, than a virtuous and wise ruler, no greater curse than a wicked and reckless one; and our estimate of distinguished individuals should be determined, not by the amount of their talents, or by the dazzling appearance of their actions, but by the moral influence of their lives, and with reference to the degree in which they succeeded or failed in accomplishing the good placed within their reach. 

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Star ParkerThe Character of George Washington
by Richard Brookhiser

The following is adapted from a speech delivered at the dedication of a statue of George Washington on the Hillsdale College campus on May 9, 2003. The statue is the first in a series that will form the Hillsdale College Liberty Walk.

I want to talk today about two qualities of George Washington’s character. The first is persistence. There’s a line in the song “America the Beautiful”: “Thine alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by human tears.” It means that the cities of America, unlike those of Europe, have not been torn and destroyed by war. That’s not quite right. The city I live in, New York, has been attacked twice in American history.

The first attack was in the summer of 1776, and George Washington, commander-in-chief of the American army, was responsible for the city’s defense. The Declaration of Independence had been read for the first time in New York on July 9. That very week, Americans on Long Island saw a British fleet moving toward New York Harbor. The British, who made camp on Staten Island, had at their command ten ships of the line, dozens of other ships, and 32,000 professional soldiers (including Hessians). To oppose this force, Washington had no navy, no ships, and 19,000 soldiers, most of them militia and most of them untrained. Over the next few months, he and his men fought two battles: the Battle of Long Island, in what is now Brooklyn, and the Battle of White Plains north of the city. They lost both.

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Excerpts from George Washington's Farewell Address
Profoundly penetrated with this idea [the constancy of American support], I shall carry it with me to my grave, as a strong incitement to unceasing vows that heaven may continue to you the choicest tokens of its beneficence; that your union and brotherly affection may be perpetual; that the free Constitution, which is the work of your hands, may be sacredly maintained; that its administration in every department may be stamped with wisdom and virtue; that, in fine, the happiness of the people of these States, under the auspices of liberty, may be made complete by so careful a preservation and so prudent a use of this blessing as will acquire to them the glory of recommending it to the applause, the affection, and adoption of every nation which is yet a stranger to it...

...This [Constitutional] government, the offspring of our own choice, uninfluenced and unawed, adopted upon full investigation and mature deliberation, completely free in its principles, in the distribution of its powers, uniting security with energy, and containing within itself a provision for its own amendment, has a just claim to your confidence and your support. Respect for its authority, compliance with its laws, acquiescence in its measures, are duties enjoined by the fundamental maxims of true liberty. 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.
George Washington's Farewell Address

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