Thomas Fleming:  a Christmas story about George Washington’s Gift that few Americans know

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Washington went on to express his gratitude for the support of "my countrymen" and the "army in general." This reference to his soldiers ignited feelings so intense, he had to grip the speech with both hands to keep it steady. He continued: "I consider it an indispensable duty to close this last solemn act of my official life by commending the interests of our dearest country to the protection of Almighty God and those who have the superintendence of them [Congress] to his holy keeping."

For a long moment, Washington could not say another word. Tears streamed down his cheeks. The words touched a vein of religious faith in his inmost soul, born of battlefield experiences that had convinced him of the existence of a caring God who had protected him and his country again and again during the war. Without this faith he might never have been able to endure the frustrations and rage he had experienced in the previous eight months.

Washington then drew from his coat a parchment copy of his appointment as commander in chief. "Having now finished the work assigned me, I retire from the great theater of action and bidding farewell to this august body under whom I have long acted, I here offer my commission and take leave of all the employments of public life." Stepping forward, he handed the document to Mifflin.

This was -- is -- the most important moment in American history.

The man who could have dispersed this feckless Congress and obtained for himself and his soldiers rewards worthy of their courage was renouncing absolute power. By this visible, incontrovertible act, Washington did more to affirm America's government of the people than a thousand declarations by legislatures and treatises by philosophers.

Thomas Jefferson, author of the greatest of these declarations, witnessed this drama as a delegate from Virginia. Intuitively, he understood its historic dimension. "The moderation. . . . of a single character," he later wrote, "probably prevented this revolution from being closed, as most others have been, by a subversion of that liberty it was intended to establish."

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsChristmas* Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.

3 Comments
Posted December 26, 2011 at 2:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. AnglicanFirst wrote:

How many Americans understand the concept of ‘selfless service’ to their country?

How many Americans know (and if they know, have internalized) the fact that such selfless service includes a sworn oath to “uphold and defend the Constitution?”

George Washington by his selfless service made it possible for our radically new democracy (radically new in the late 1700s) to have a chance to survive and to flourish and to be “a light on a hill” to the rest of the world.

How many of the nations in the United Nations are democracies run by their freely elected officials and how many of them are run by self-serving generals, politicians, and cliques that would NEVER do what George Washington did at that critical point in time?

December 26, 6:41 pm | [comment link]
2. sophy0075 wrote:

As great a man as Washington was (perhaps because he was a great man, he would not be able to survive the insanity that is 21st century US media scrutiny. The pundits would have deprecated his marriage (“for money”), his temper (reported by biographer Joseph Ellis and other historians to have been volcanic, once aroused), his tendre for Sally Fairfax, his poor “win” record of Revolutionary War battles, his self-promotion regarding his French & Indian War service - and of course they would have completely missed, with the listing of those very human flaws, the greatness of the hero, statesman, and (I’m proud to say “Virginia!”) gentleman that he was. Truly, our Nation was blessed to have had him in the roles he gamely and steadfastly took - and further blessed that the media at the time lacked the technological power to destroy, smear, and generally trash that it does now.

December 27, 4:38 pm | [comment link]
3. AnglicanFirst wrote:

“...- and further blessed that the media at the time lacked the technological power to destroy, smear, and generally trash that it does now.”

And that is a major problem, possibly the major problem, with American politics today. 

We keep insisting that our politicians have unblemished records and the photlogenic appeal of a movie star.  We are not willing to accept the fact that none of us has an unblemished professional or personal record.  A record that can stand up to the character assassination that characterizes so much of the discussion of political candidates in the media.  In addition, we tolerate highly biased and politicized rerporting on the part of our media organs.  In fact, we only want to hear good news about the candidates that we favor and relish bad news regarding candidates who are considered to be part of the opposition political party.

I believe it was that great American philosopher named Pogo who said
“We have met the enemy [in American politics] and he is us.”

December 28, 11:04 am | [comment link]
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