Nov

28

 In a second installment on Washington let me echo Mr. Jov's comments. Washington's story is not what he was in 1775, but what he became over the course of the next eight years. The Revolution started as grievances by the elite over restrictions on western land expansion, credit expansion and taxes. But these were primarily "rich peoples" problems. The taxes affected luxury goods for the wealthy or mercantile traders. It was initially a revolution for practical reasons not ideals.

The Revolution became great when Washington and others turned the fight into an ideological war described early on by Thomas Paine in Common Sense. The war turned on the higher ideals of Freedom, Liberty and a fight against the foreign tyranny.

What is most astounding about Washington is how he was able to keep a standing army in the field for those eight years of incredible suffering. The infrequent battles were difficult enough, but the real hardship came during the winters and years of deprivation. He lead an army with no clothes, shoes, weapons, pay, food, or shelter. The men, for good reason, enlisted for only very short periods, and Washington was constantly losing half his army to disease, desertion or end-of-enlistment . He somehow managed to keep them together and perhaps those higher ideals and his example of leadership were the glue. The average Continental had little to gain personally and truly was fighting for the greater cause of Liberty.

It was also a time where chivalry and honor still ruled the day. In an amazing gesture, after the bloody siege of Yorktown and the British surrender, Cornwallis and British officers were invited to a celebratory ball by Washington. The Revolutionary elite still respected the European elite. The 8000 British regulars however, were resigned as prisoners.

The larger point being the country has always grappled with leadership's elite status and the blood, toil and tears of the rest of us. Washington was able to convince the country by words and deeds he was of the people. A farmer, statesman, warrior, but not a ruling elite. He put his life on the line countless time to prove that. In my mind he did prove that. Very few of our leaders since who call themselves public servants have served anyone other than themselves. That is why Washington remains great.


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