Washington ‘man of peace’

Click to see original imageBy N. LA VtHL CHRISTENSEN Scripps League Newspapers George Washington, as commander-in-chief of American forces in the Revolutionary War, wrought miracles in achieving victory over the powerful British to secure the liberty proclaimed in the Declaration of independence. But. as events proved. Washiag1no,was,more a “naan of peace” than of war. More as a statesman than on the battlefield he won the honored title of “father t of his country.” l First, as chairman of the convention which wrote the United States Constitution, he gave dedicated and forceful leadership in bringing together diverse elements from the 13 colonies to fashion the historic document, the supreme law of the land. Then, as the country’s first president for two terms, he steered the ship of state through hazardous waters, nurturing the fragile “political experiment” into a viable nation. Washington, whose birthday anniversary we commemorate today. believed in a strong military to back up diplomatic efforts. “To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving peace,” he said in his first annual address to both Houses of Congress Jan. 8, 1790. But early in his second term as president, when there were rumblings of strife with Britain. the concerned American president unburdened his feelings about war and peace in a letter to the British philanthropist the Earl of Buchan. With statements that are as true today as in his time, Washington said; .. “ff, insteadxof the provocations to war, bloodshed, and desolation toftentimes unjustly given) the strife of nations and of individuals was to excel each other in acts of philanthropy, industry, and economy, in encouraging useful arts and manufactures, promoting thereby the comfort and happiness of our fellow men; and in exchanging on liberal terms the products of one country and clime for those of another, how much happier would mankind bc.” Washington continued: “But providence, for purposes beyond the reach of mortal scan, has suffered the restless and malignant passions of men, the ambitious and sordid views of those who direct them, to keep the affairs of this world in a continual state of disquietude; and will, it is to be feared. place the prospects of peace too far off, and the promised millenium at an awful distance from our day.” He closed the statement by expressing his “eamest wish to keep t.his country free (if it can be done consistently with honor and the respect which every nation owes itself as well as to others . . tQuoted from “George Washington” by James Thomas Flexner. published by Little, Brown and Company) The war clouds which made Washington apprehensive had begun to gather ilk: 1793 when a general European war broke out against France. There was danger the United States might be drawn in, some arguing that America owed France a deht for real assistance in the American revolution. However, Washington weighed the factors, and announced this country’s neutrality, sanctioned by Congress. He refused aid either to England or France and asserted America’s right to trade freely with both. in his farewell address, which ranks with the Declaration of Independence and the Gettysburg Address among historic American documents, Washington spoke of the neutrality proclamation. saying “the spirit of that measure has continually governed me . . Undoubtedly it was Washington’s hand more than any other’s of his heroic era that shaped the nation. He had his problems, particularly in his second term. drawing criticism from the press and many compatriots for his handling of some of the tough issues of the era. Differences within his cabinet lil some cases didn’t help. ‘ Thomas Jefferson, who had left his post as secretary of state early in the second term, wrote of Washington long after the first presidenfggzthc . “His w Ve singular destiny andrndit ol”leading the armies of his country successfully through an arduous war for the establislurtent of its independence, of conducting its councils through the birth of a government, new in its forms and principles, until it settled down into a quiet and orderly train; and of scrupulously obeying the laws through the whole uf his career, civil and military, of which the history of the world furnishes no other example.” But it remained for Henry Lee, Revolutionary War general, member of the Continental Congress, and governor of Virginia, to express the benediction that has come ringing down through the generations. In a memorial address delivered at the request of Congress, Lee described Washington as “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.” What greater tribute could be paid a man in his own time!