Name: George Washington AKA Father of His Country
Lifespain: February 22nd 1732 (?) or February 11, 1731(?) – December 14, 1799. (Julian Calendar people complicate everything. Leave it to the British to sort this out… http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/palaeography/quick_reference.htm)
Home State: Virginia
Served as President: 1789-1797
Vice President: John Adams
Spouse: Martha Dandridge Custis Washington
Historian Rank: 3
Why you may LOVE him….
You do not get a nickname like “Father of His Country” for birthing heirs (George was impotent). Washington could have died in 1783 and would still hold legendary status in many circles. He married one of the wealthiest widows in Virginia and he owned upwards of 20,000 acres. By all accounts he was top dog in an era of gallant horsemen. Washington received rave reviews on the dance floor and attended the theater well above the rate of his contemporaries. He may have fired the first shot of the French and Indian War (AKA the first truly world war) and he led a cobbled group of militia (plus the French let’s be real) to defeat the greatest army in the world. However, Washington did indeed live beyond 1783, played an instrumental role in decrying the ineffective Articles of Confederation, helped build a new government and then was unanimously elected its first President. He would go on to establish a new political power out of thin air. He led nation from the cradle on a track toward becoming the greatest and most powerful nation in the world. He could have been King, but instead he carefully and knowingly set truly American precedents and forever cemented his nation on a republican path. His greatness was the only thing Jefferson and Hamiltion could agree on. Yet, despite a certain third term at hand he walked away. He retired on top, battled and bruised but never beaten. What’s not to love?
Why you may HATE him…
Washington claimed to be constantly and steadfastly cognizant of the precedents he set as the first hero in an infant nation. And no, I am not going to bury this slaveholding and Indian scalping warrior. Certainly in light of the 21st Century these are undesirable but surely risk-free when it came to precedent. No one saw equality like we do today. Heck, women haven’t even been voting for 100 years. The reason you may hate Washington is he was more British than American at almost every turn. In fact, his support of the American cause may have just been an outlet of petty grievances with British creditors. He hosted exclusive levees, decked out his slaves in pretentious regalia, drove around in a horse drawn carriage, was president of the Primogeniture Cincinnatus Society, and openly expressed his love for all things British. History is never as clean as our high school courses would lead us to believe, but taking off your rose colored glasses would reveal a very vain and thin skinned man. Washington is someone who many historians believe passed over a third term because the press finally insulted him. He never thought of himself or America in general in the exceptional ways that Jefferson or Franklin did. He saw the young nation as Britain’s kid brother and in many ways set precedents toward that aim. Why else did he insist on being called His Excellency?
Final Verdict in Five Words: The right man to start.