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  • Morning Bell: Washington, the Indispensable Man of the Revolution

    Poor George Washington. His birthday, spontaneously celebrated since the Revolution and formally declared a holiday in 1879, has slowly morphed into the insipid Presidents Day you’ll hear about today.

    George Washington, the “indispensable man” of the Revolution who was rightly extolled for being “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen,” has now been lumped together with the likes of James Buchanan, Jimmy Carter, Franklin Pierce and John Tyler.

    It gets worse. Washington’s good name and great legacy are now shamelessly invoked to justify positions that he would never have envisaged.

    In a Time Magazine special edition on George Washington currently in newsstands, historian Joseph Ellis matter-of-factly remarks: “He began the political tradition that produced a Union victory in the Civil War, the Federal Reserve Board, Social Security, Medicare and, more recently, Obamacare.”

    Washington, who called on Americans to display “pious gratitude” for their Constitution and warned against any “change by usurpation,” is now a partisan of the sprawling welfare state and the unprecedented individual mandate. Ellis even has the gall to hail Washington–the man who gracefully and voluntarily relinquished power after two terms when he could have stayed on for life–as the father of “strong executive leadership” and the precursor to FDR, who stayed in office for an unprecedented 12 years!

    The true Washington still has much to teach us, in particular when it comes to the presidency, foreign policy and religious liberty. Although much has changed in the past two centuries, his sage advice and conduct in office have lost none of their relevance, anchored as they are in the timeless principles of the Founding and a sober assessment of human nature.

    Washington, like every President after him, swore the following oath upon taking office: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Unlike many presidents in the past 100 years,  however, Washington took the oath seriously and did not try to place himself above the Constitution.

    He understood himself to be the President of a Republic in which the people, through their elected representatives in Congress, make laws–not some visionary leader who must define what Progress requires and lead the unenlightened masses there.

    Washington took care “that the laws be faithfully executed,” as when he quashed the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794. He did not try to make the laws himself, either by issuing executive orders that circumvented Congress or by regulating what could not be legislated. He left behind no “signature” legislative accomplishments as we would say today. He only used his veto twice–once on constitutional grounds and once in his capacity as Commander-in-Chief.

    Washington gave, on average, only three public speeches a year while in office–including the shortest ever inaugural address. And, of course, he had to be persuaded to serve a second term.

    As a President who took his bearings from the Constitution, Washington devoted considerable attention to foreign policy. Our first President sought to establish an energetic and independent foreign policy. He believed America needed a strong military so that it could “choose peace or war, as our interest guided by justice shall Counsel.” His Farewell Address remains the preeminent statement of purpose for American foreign policy.

    No survey of Washington’s legacy would be complete without acknowledging his profound commitment to religious liberty. Many today seem to have lost sight of the crucial distinction he drew between mere toleration and true religious liberty. As he explained in the memorable letter to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport:

    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.

    On this day, as we celebrate our greatest President (his actual birthday is on Wednesday), let us remember why he–and not Polk or, heaven forbid, Wilson–deserves a national holiday.

    David Azerrad is Assistant Director, B. Kenneth Simon Center for Principles and Politics at The Heritage Foundation

    Quick Hits:

    Posted in First Principles [slideshow_deploy]

    56 Responses to Morning Bell: Washington, the Indispensable Man of the Revolution

    1. martin steiner says:

      Difficult to say, either Harry Truman, FDR, Jimmy Carter or President Obama. They all seemed to truly and sincerely be working for the sake of American citizens. Not getting caught up in partisan/religious biases. My reasons could turn into a volume of books. In a nutshell, they represented or represent the patriotism, liberty;s ,freedom's and democracy of what America should be about.

    2. Turner says:

      We don't don't need a man except to lead us in a revival to God.

    3. Happy Birthday President George Washington, now this a President we can all be proud of….so sad we don't give his birthday more attention.

    4. Eric Frome says:

      Time magazine has not been touched by the truth for decades.

    5. Jim says:

      How dare the Time Magazine print twisted facts about George Washington.
      They are libelous and should be taken to task.
      More revision of our true history to support Obama!

    6. Justo H. Venegas says:

      Just great! Keep up the good work and God Bless the U.S.A

    7. James Richard says:

      Of course, if Washington had a Congress like the current one, he would have invented executive orders.

    8. Oscar Brown says:

      "Historians" may revise or re-write history all they want, but truth is truth and the reality remains. Washington's words are the only defense he needs. We can still correct the ignorant and those who desire the truth will be thankful. We still get to celebrate the great presidents individually and be thankful we survived their antitheses. Thanks for the reminder.

    9. Stephen Metz says:

      David Azerrad is right on. As great as he was, (and alone among his peers) Washington did not consider himself indispensable. He could easily have taken advantage of the fragmentation in the colonial government infrastructure after Yorktown to seize control by accepting his troops desire to make him king, or following the example of Cromwell to make himself "Lord Protector", but held fast to his principles. Thank heaven!

    10. George Washing, the greatest President,in my opinion. "First in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of our countrymen."

    11. Benton H Marder says:

      I wish the Mount Vernon Ladies Association could find the money for a reprint of John Frederick Schroeder book, "The Maxims of Washington", a veritable treasure trove. Years ago, I had a copy of the original edition of 1854; now, I use the 1943 edition sponsored by the Ladies.
      Years ago, it was commonfor the Farewell Address to be bound up with the Declaration and the Constitution as a vest pocket edition. Often, I have heard people say that they knew what was in the Farewell Address but were quite astonished when they actually and carefully read it.

    12. Lydia White says:

      The good news is that Time magazine has become so leftist that hardly anyone reads it anymore.

    13. FriendForLife says:

      Yeah, it's almost as bad as linking the 'Heritage Foundation' with any balanced source of information.

    14. Mike G. says:

      I agree that the holiday should be limited to celebrating Washington's birthday and that calling it "Presidents' Day" cheapens the memory of the Father of our Country. Officially, the holiday is called "Washington's Brithday". But I have to ask, why does the Heritage Foundation calendar I receive every year call today "Presidents' Day"? I realize that it also notes Washington's birthday on 2/22, but why even recognize the day if the opinion of Heritage is that it has "morphed into the insipid Presidents Day you’ll hear about today."?

    15. Kupe says:

      And the rest of that famous Washington quote: "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."

    16. Blair Franconia, NH says:

      It was said of Washington, that he was: "First in war, first in peace, and first in the minds of his country." That's
      not true now. In a recent Gallup Poll, Ronald Reagan's number one, Bill Clinton's number two, and Richard Nixon's at the bottom.

    17. Mary......WI says:

      Does anyone believe Obama would even bother to read this article if it was forwarded to him?…HAH!

      Excellent article. I wish President Washington was still our president….I would finally enjoy some good sleep at night not worrying about the fact that the USA is slowly being eroded by the democrat party and their minions.

    18. Wayne Peterkin says:

      An excellent article. It is sad the way so many liberals try to rewrite history today. It's even sadder that we do not have a man with the vision and incredible character of George Washington running for the presidency this year. We need Mr. Washington more than ever.

    19. Palrak says:

      Some people wrongly interpret President's Day to mean it's a day to honor all Presidents, past and current. If I remember correctly, while we used to celebrate Lincoln's bday on Feb. 12, and Washington's on the 22nd, their two bdays were combined. Today, I honor Washington and Lincoln, and I specifically exclude Obama.

    20. J E Houser says:

      It is totally insulting to disregard one of the finest persons of human history by decapitating George Washington's birthday celebration into a mere reminder of the office of the presidency, a growing corruption of our Constitution, the foundation of all of our prior successes.

    21. joe kamalay says:

      Thanks very much for this timely reminder of our first president. I don’t know if it’s possible to get away from the rock star/mass marketing/propaganda-fest that is the modern presidency. After the long months of an election process that has the central figurehead being treated like the proverbial “golden child” it would seem impossible for anyone not to take themselves too seriously. In my lifetime I have only seen Americans clamoring for some version of leadership by an anointed, ruling class, royal family – one that is also divinely appointed (i.e., “historical”). If anyone (or any political party) ever wanted to “construct” the perfect American president, a leader for a democratic republic, there is obviously an excellent template available in the father of our country. We are a long way away from that currently.

    22. Jules says:

      Excellent article on the first President. A man of character and humility. So unlike the current potus and his minions. We may be looking at the last potus as events unfold, sad to say. I am sure that if the left succeeds, this day will not only disappear as a celebrated day, but be replaced with the "dear leader" day as in other nations which have succumbed to their version of dictator. The current potus is looking more and more like a Hugo Chavez as opposed to a true president of this great nation.
      Where are the George Washington patriots when we sorely need them? We can no longer afford the luxury of being the "silent majority". We must come together and raise the hue and cry of the patriot majority in order to save this nation from the destruction which is rapidly being forced upon us. It will take nothing less than a concerted effort of all good citizens of this nation to reverse the course of this foundering ship of state. It cannot be allowed to go down without the all out effort of those who still believe, as our first President did, that the Constitution is still viable and needs to be heeded to preserve those liberties and freedoms endowed upon all citizens by the creator. The time is now.

    23. Patrick Henry says:

      Washington being the 1st. leader of this country understood exactly what his duties were, to follow our Constitution and to simply execute the basic functions of the Federal Government. He understood the balance of powers and didn't try to make Laws and have an "agenda." He was a pure American and set our precedents on everything. He understood States have most of the duties of Government. Washington, of all Presidents, should have a special holiday called, Washington's Day!

    24. Ronald Wade says:

      Three loud huzzahs for including Wilson as one to be included out. He came as close to being a Fascist as any president we've had up to the present moment (with perturbations by FDR).

    25. Gilbert Doan says:

      You know the currrent schtick on Washington, I'm sure:

      Washington had slaves – so he was obviously worse than a nobody, and we're well rid of HIM!

    26. Denise says:

      So nicely said! It is sad to see how a once factual magazine has slipped to the depths of deceit that it has. It needs to join the dodo bird.

    27. D Coulombe says:

      For the Times writer (using this term loosely) to equate Washington's beliefs and principles to FDR and Obama Socialist values smacks in the face of what Washington stood for. Washington was a defender of the Constitution. Obama on the other hand wants to dispose of the Constitution and find every tactic to circumvent this very important declaration.

    28. Hamby says:

      There is not a citizen of this great and exceptional country that does not know the solution to out present muddled mess.
      But, where are the people with the courage to step forth to state them, enact and employ the answers?

      With both Parties flagalating the Constitution, with a President who is more Marxist than Democrat, with
      bureaucrats regulating without supervision, the people surely cannot help but see the problems that need to be solved.

      So can we find another George Washington in our midst? Would we listen to him if we did?

      We, as a nation, are between the proverbial "rock and the hard spot". Let us remove the rock.

    29. Gary Sheldon says:

      The Federal gumMINT as presently viewed by "serf voterslike myself is the ultimate result of the movement FROM the Constitutional Republic as intended by the founders and guided by Providence, to a politboro of countless departments, "TSARS", impeachable legislativejusticesapproved and developed by the elected LORDS who no longer look to constituents for guidance much less Providence but to their own self important idleness inspired insipient 2500 page laws. Makes Americans of ALL colors wonder why their heads haven't yet exploded. A humble politician seems as rare as hens teeth though their must be SOME guided by a principled moral compass.

    30. sue says:

      Fifty years ago I had the great privilege to meet Brigadier General William H. Wilbur, the author of The Making of George Washington. He is the only man who spent a long time and great expense to learn about the childhood and upbringing of Washington. He wanted to understand what went into the making of this greatest man in our history. His book was my first introduction to Washington and I have studied his life since then. At that time he told me that he wrote this book "because the world needs Washington again" It is available from Patriotic Education Inc, but can be googled easily. According to one quote I have read, and there are many remarkable quotes by people who knew him, he was the greatest man produced in a 1000 year period of history. I am so thankful that you have written this as it disturbs me to have a flag put in each yard of our neighborhood for all Presidents and the few greats we have had.

    31. Jim McQuiston says:

      I think the greatest president ever is Ronald Reagan. His greatest achievment was winning the Cold War without firing a shot.

    32. Fedupaj says:

      Politics and government, just like a sports team, needs to "get back to basics" to be a winner. It is a disgrace and our eventual fall how so many of our "modern" politicians and leaders trample our constitution and standards set by better men and women than they. I wish this holiday would be a time of examination and reflection upon the greatness and brilliant ideas of Presidents like Washington and Lincoln instead of just another long weekend with no thought whatsoever.

    33. Michael A. Gabel says:

      All well and good, and our founding documents are remarkable works.

      However, if a person like Obama can come in and be allowed to violate his oath and run roughshod over our rights, then there is a major flaw that needs to be addressed.

      Though, is it a flaw in our founding documents, or in the will of We The People?

    34. Natalie Johnson says:

      I agree totally that it is unfortunate that President Washington's birthday be lumped together with all presidents since his time and I am sure he would be appalled at the lack of following the constitution some of the most recent presidents have taken.

    35. Doug Nicholson says:

      Great article pointing out the huge difference between what a President should be and what the office has become. The "Father of His Country" deserves his own holiday.

    36. Peter McKay says:

      I appreciate the truths told about our first president, George Washington. I have a serious question that has bothered me for a number of years. Who was responsible for dropping the celebration of Washington's (and Lincoln's) birthday in favor of Presidents day? George Washington stands head and shoulders over all other presidents, hence, his birthday is the only one worthy of celebration. Linking him with all presidents is shameful, and those responsible for this debacle should be held responsible. Perhaps it's time for congress to right this grevious wrong and go back to celebrating George Washington.

    37. Robert says:

      There is overwhelming evidence that George was a very devout Bible-believing Christian, who believed in the fundamentals of the Christian faith. He was a man who prayed on his knees daily, read sermons to his children and grandchildren every week, and who served in the church as an active layman (Deacon). He was baptized in the Anglican Church and attended church all his life. He carried with him a devotional book of prayers. Although he was a private man, he was not shy in proclaiming his faith in hundreds of speeches and letters throughout his life. He was very seasoned in his understanding of God’s Word and quoted the Bible and alluded to the Bible very often. His good Christian character was exemplary and of the highest standards of honesty, courage, humility, self-sacrifice, and integrity. The Father of America was truly a great Christian man of God!

    38. Jules says:

      Excellent article on the first President. A man of character and humility. So unlike the current potus and his minions. We may be looking at the last potus as events unfold, sad to say. I am sure that if the left succeeds, this day will not only disappear as a celebrated day, but be replaced with the "dear leader" day as in other nations which have succumbed to their version of dictator. The current potus is looking more and more like a Hugo Chavez as opposed to a true president of this great nation.

    39. wallyblu says:

      There are only two Presidents that I think qualify for this special recognition, Washington and Lincoln. Some of the rest did good but also did harm. We have those who sight FDR, Kennedy, Reagan etc. but it is too early to see their Presidencies in the light of History.

      The next President that I think will qualify for the honor of joining Washington and Lincoln will be the one who gets this country out of the mess that two generations of social engineering and political correctness has brought us to.

    40. Jimmer says:

      Frederick Barbarossa was asked "what will History say of us?" His response was "we will train the historians" What has occurred in the last 100 years is normative revisionism; meaning, that those who write history are presenting it to create their normative world. The "leap in logic" that Joseph Ellis takes plays into the progressive workd view. In the Marxist concept of historical determinism Feudalism begot Capitalism which will beget Socialism.

    41. Bobbie says:

      This is what I understand about America, her founding documents and the truest of Americans from the first of the truest of men, Washington and those few in between ending with Reagan leadership: Holding no person less to any other person and all people liable to the law! What's the problem, Mr. President? sounds strictly noble…

    42. Phil says:

      Who was/were the idiot/idiots (congress?) that decided to combine the birthdays of our two greatest presidents into a single "presidents" day"? And to celebrate such days on a Monday rather thamn on the actual day(s)?

      It has obciously had the effect of diluting the meaning and purpose of the two individual celebrations into just a single chance to get another day "off work".

    43. Casey Carlton says:

      How desperately we need a Washington today! If not a Washington, we need a Lincoln or a Reagan. Is there no one in a land of more than 300 million who can give us true leadership? Surely not.

    44. Len_Powder says:

      Washington, as the nation's first president, was very solicitous about not exceeding his authority under the Constitution. He did not want to set any precedents which violate the Constitution. He, like all the founding fathers was deeply concerned to avoid the possibility of a monarchy. He and Hamilton wanted a strong central government primarily for national security and a national military. Based on their experiences with the Continental currency Hamilton argued for a national bank. Joseph Stalin realized that by revising history you alter the past because eventually all those who lived through it will die. Leftist revisionists, like Time magazine, adopted this principle in the US and continually rewrite history to advocate their socialist and statist viewpoint. The main difference is that Stalin could banish any books and sources which contradicted his presentation of events but the Left here has not yet succeeded in eliminating competitive viewpoints only because they have not yet achieved the absolute power which is their ultimate goal.

    45. Joy A. wiseman says:

      I thoroughly enjoyed reading your tribute to President George Washington. He deserves every accolade a writer could give him. You have excelled in describing Washington's great attributes.
      Thank you. I wish all citizens could read this piece.

    46. Distressed citizen says:

      Joseph Ellis certainly cannot be called an historian. Apparently modern day historians just as moden day journelists, take poetic liscense and play loose with the truth. Washington with all his knowwledge and capabilities, his wealth and love of country, was a modest man. Not so of the pretender in the White House. Washington would be distressed to see what modern day Americans elevate to the Presidency. Not the best the country has to offer, but a mealy mouthed, arrogant, pretender. Washinton would be ashamed of this country's citizens.

    47. Yankee57 says:

      This was the most inane drivel that has ever appeared in any Newspaper !

    48. Timely Renewed says:

      The best way to truly honor Washington and the other Framers would be to restore the original constitutional limits on the federal government which have been broken by 70 years of Supreme Court decisions. Since then the Supreme Court has effectively usurped the power to amend the Constitution in complete disregard for the amendment requirements in the document itself, which Washington specifically warned against in the quote from his Farewell Address cited in Mr. Azerrad's article. Given how entrenched those Supreme Court decisions are, the only solution would seem to be resort to that amendment process to restate and re-affirm those original constitutional limits. To do that we need to re-invigorate the amendment process by eliminating the archaic and unnecessary rule that the states can only initiate amendments through a convention. Then grassroots constitutionalists on the state level could begin a campaign to restore our constitutional government. See http://www.timelyrenewed.com

    49. emaisen says:

      isn;t this the same Joseph Ellis who lied about his service during the Vietnam War ?
      Why would we want to believe anything he writes about-since he has shown that
      he has no honor?

    50. Redspuds says:

      Very simply, the honorable father of our country was not about ambition and self promotion. In fact, those traits are contrary to his Christian heritage. Would it be that those who profess loyalty to God also embrace the trait of humility in their leadership of this great nation. Ambition seems to be the key driver in many who run for public office today.

    51. david turney says:

      thanks david for reminding us i can tell you are a true american if we all stand together we can defeat this markist and see some light at the end of the tunnel again thanks for standing up we all need you david

    52. InDefenseOfLiberty says:

      It's time for all the presidential candidates to follow in the footsteps of Washington and live up to the oath of office.

      Sign and share The Marietta Declaration, a seminal document that enumerates governmental abuses of authority that over the past one hundred years have incrementally diminished the very principles upon which our nation was founded. The Marietta Declaration challenges presidential candidates of all political parties to end these abuses and establishes the principal tenents upon which to do so.

    53. Cynthia L. Eller says:

      What the "LIBIOTS" do NOT read, What the "LIBIOTS" do NOT understand, What the "LIBIOTS" do NOT like, the "LIBIOTS" turn around 180 degrees and re-write to fit "THEIR" NEEDS!

      LIES, UNTRUTHS, FALSEHOODS! Not an ounce of INTEGRITY can be found amongst the whole entire population of the followers of SOCIALISTIC FASCISM!


    54. I don't think that the human population is ever going to get it. The "it" being that "man was not intended to be the ruler of man". We have seen thousands of years go by with man repeating the same mistake. We think that there are specific people born that are supposed to lead and rule us. We seem to overlook the fact that the person telling us "they" are the chosen "one" are in fact the ones that are telling us that they are the one. We buy that old story over and over every time. The laws of Nature and God's laws of human behavior are the only things we should follow. Human beings are too weak and infallible to lead. We should therefore take the responsibility of leading ourselves. If we make a mistake then we can't blame it on someone else.

    55. Glenn Gould says:

      Nice encomium to the great Virginian. One wonders how much of Washington's neutrality was principled, and how much practical…what would Washington done with a superpower military? One also wonders if Washington's commitment to "no political connection" is either possible or desirable in today's world. Would Washington take no part in NATO, the UN, or Bretton Woods for that matter? Not to suggest that GW would be a Clintonian, surely not…but I do not think he would be a Ron Paul either.

    56. Cos says:

      Joseph J. Ellis, college professor,historical novelist & not a writer of factual truth, lies about his own life; therefore why would anyone be surprised about the liberal fiction he writes about in his Time article, George Washington? Ellis' timing is again perfect – like his Thomas Jefferson historical fiction LIES of Sally Heming slave children when President Clinton was having his own sex scandal & possible impeachment. Eillis is again comparing a great man who believed in "DEEDS NOT WORDS" to a President who believes in "WORDS NOT DEEDS", AND WANTS RE-ELECTION. Wake up, America! Restore America! Restore the Constutition, Freedom and Liberty! We can't afford 4 more years of King Obama!

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