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Impearls: GWAC: Apotheosis

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Earthdate 2009-12-15

Apotheosis   by Hendrik Willem van Loon

Horatio Greenough's Washington as Zeus

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Horatio Greenough's Washington as Zeus


With this little anecdote, I think I can bid the General farewell, for you will now understand what kind of person he was.  And now that all the evidence is available, we can sum him up in a very few words, for there really was nothing very complicated about this greatest of all Americans.

George Washington was not a great military leader.  He was careful and methodical, but he lacked the genius of an Alexander or a Napoleon.  He was not a creative statesman like Jefferson, and old Ben Franklin was his undisputed master when it came to diplomatic negotiations that required shrewdness and patience and a gift for horse trading.  As an orator he was deplorably lacking in all those tricks by which an experienced speaker can sway his audiences.  Nor did he ever indulge in what we would now call original and creative thinking.  He was by nature a conservative and deeply distrusted the bright boys who tried to sell him the ideal of the French Revolution.  Indeed, if he had had his way, all radicals would have been sent back right away to where they had come from.  They upset his notions about a well-regulated commonwealth in which every man, woman, child, horse, and dog should know his, or her, or its place in society.  He wanted freedom, but it was the freedom that had prevailed in the England of his ancestors.  The conception of liberty which was to arise soon afterward among the disinherited masses of the future republic he did not understand at all, and it is doubtful whether it would have been very much to his liking.

Yet, it was he who founded our republic; it was this Virginian planter who set us free from foreign domination; it was this Southern aristocrat who started us off on our noble experiment in self-government, and he was able to do this because he was far ahead of his contemporaries in that one particular respect which counts more heavily in the scales of the gods than all other qualifications for glory and success put together.

George Washington was the embodiment of character.

Webster defines character as follows:  “Highly developed or strongly marked moral qualities; individuality, esp. as distinguished by moral excellence; moral vigor or firmness, esp. as acquired through self-discipline; inhibitory control of one's instinctive impulses….”

I think that I can let it go at that.  For my final comment upon both William of Orange and George Washington need consist of but one single word:  CHARACTER.

Constantino Brumidi's Apotheosis of Washington, Detail: E Pluribus Unum

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Constantino Brumidi's Apotheosis of Washington, Detail: E Pluribus Unum





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