George Washington: 'Greatest Character of the Age'

Article excerpt

Dec. 14, 1999, marks the 200th anniversary of the death

(from a throat infection) of the nation's foremost hero. It's about time his achievements once again find a central place in American history and society.

When it comes to the genuine heroes of American history, academia seems

to know no bounds. Radical revisionist historians have effectively written what they arrogantly dismiss as DWEMs (dead white European mates) out of contemporary "social studies" books.

Political correctness has run amuck, ignoring and often denigrating even George Washington. For example, the authors of United States History reduced him to a "man of ordinary talents ... not completely successful as a military man nor as a president."

This is their verdict on a man who arch-enemy English King George III called "the greatest character of the age" and who was praised by German military genius Frederick the Great for leading the Continental Army to victory. Congress thought his deeds so great that it declared him "General of the Armies" in 1976.

Yet today, American society elevates undeserving and superficial individuals to the status of hero. "The qualities Washington possessed just aren't as appreciated as they were," laments James Rees, director at Mount Vernon, Washington's Virginia home. I suppose it has to do with the end of the great-man theory in history...'

To find unstinting praise for Washington nowadays, one must consult references of old. No less an authority than the 1968 edition of Encyclopedia Britannica had this to say about the commander-inchief of the Army of the United Colonies:

It is unquestionable that Washington's strength of character, his ability to hold the confidence of army and people and to diffuse his own courage among them, his unremitting activity and his strong common sense constituted the chief factors in achieving American victory.

While Washington is justifiably famous for enduring the winter at Valley Forge and his brilliant actions at Boston's

Dorchester Heights, Trenton, Princeton, Monmouth and Yorktown, he is less wellknown for developing his winning character traits during the French & Indian War (1754-1762).

He endured 78 days in the wilderness where an Indian shot at him "not 15 steps away," had four bullets shot through his coat at the same time two horses were shot out from under him, watched hundreds of men butchered in battle and defended 350 miles of frontier with a minuscule force of provincials, all by the age of 23. …