George Washington has properly been called the “Father
of our country.” To understand why, one needs to look closely
at his three major achievements:
- Although he has not been called a “great” general,
to be compared with Napoleon, Lee or Grant, Washington nevertheless
guided the American colonies to victory over the British through
his persistence, personal sacrifices and tenacity. With the vital
help of the French, Washington held the shaky revolutionary was together
long enough for the British to tire of the exercise. Though he won
only one major battle—Yorktown, again with help from the French—the
revolution might well have failed had he not been in command.
- As president of the Constitutional Convention, Washington contributed
very little in the way of specific recommendations, but as with the
war, the enterprise was not necessarily destined to succeed; indeed, at several
junctures the delegates were on the edge of giving up in
frustration. But Washington's mere presence held them to their task
through that long, hot summer until they produced the document that
has guided the nation for over 200 years. As President of the Convention
and therefore the first man to sign the Constitution, Washington's
support was a silent but important factor in the ratification process,
which also came perilously close to failure.
- As first President of the United States, Washington set the tone
for the office, guiding the ship of state through some of the stormiest
political waters in American history. Weary of public life, he wanted
nothing more than to retire after one term to his beloved Mt. Vernon
but was persuaded to remain for four more years, lest the country
founder as it sought to create a new form of governance.
- Washington thought of himself first and foremost as a farmer, as a visit to Mount Vernon will show. As he said in a letter in 1794, “I know of no pursuit in which more real and important services can be rendered to any country than by improving its agriculture, its breed of useful animals, and other branches of a husbandman’s cares.”
Taken individually, Washington's accomplishments in the service of his country would have earned him
a permanent place of honor in American history. Taken together, they
indeed support the idea that Washington was indispensable.
Books About George Wasington
John E. The First of Men: A Life of George Washington. Knoxville: Univ.
of Tennessee Press, 1988.
James Thomas. George Washington: A Biography. 4 vols. Boston: Little,
James Thomas. Washington: The Indispensable Man. Boston: Little, Brown,
Douglas Southall. George Washington: A Biography. 7 vols. New York:
Edmund S. The Genius of George Washington. New York: Norton, 1980.
Willard Sterne. George Washington: A Life. New York: H. Holt, 1997.
Norton. Patriarch: George Washington and the New American Nation. Boston:
Houghton Mifflin, 1993.
Chernow, Ron. Washington: A Life.
New York: Penguin Press, 2010.
Ellis, Joseph. His Excellency: George Washington.
New York: Knopf, 2004