American History / George Washington-Founding Father?

George Washington-Founding Father?

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Autor:  anton  21 August 2010
Tags:  George,  Washington,  founding,  Father
Words: 1218   |   Pages: 5
Views: 484

George Washington became President in 1789 and since then has been regarded as America’s “Founding Father”(10). This grand and hero-like status is said to have “began gravitating to Washington six months before the Declaration of Independence, when one Levi Allen addressed him in a letter as ‘our political Father.’”(10). The preservation of Washington’s role as a national hero has been allowed by authors and the media omitting his many flaws as if they had either been forgotten or were no longer important. Yet by excluding these human faults, they have projected an almost god-like hero and inflicted him upon the nation as their Father, somebody whose “life still has the power to inspire anyone”(10). When in reality, how can a slave-owning President be a hero to Black Americans today? Similarly, Americans of native descent today could not worship Washington, if they knew explicitly how he had treated their ancestors. However textbooks do not explicitly reveal these faults, and even if they give some indication the authors make sure to justify Washington to the best of their ability. Many Americans fail to know very little about the claims of Washington’s greed for wealth, his inability as a politician and President to speak before the Senate and Congress, and the debate to whether he was as good a General as is commonly believed. In addition to these forgotten flaws and human frailties; are the purely fabricated tales of Washington’s childhood, which are still retold to children today. As a boy George Washington allegedly accidentally chopped down a cherry tree, which he confessed to his father’s delight. There is also the tale where his father planted some seeds in the garden which grew up to spell ‘GEORGE WASHINGTON’ so as to” demonstrate by analogy God’s design in the universe”(10). However these anecdotes are the pure invention of Parson Weems (10) as very little is known about Washington’s early childhood or his relationship with his father. These invented tales, no matter how ridiculous, are less offensive than the authors who brush over or omit Washington’s involvement in slavery. In the ‘moral autobiography’ of George Washington called Founding Father; Richard Brookhiser justifies Washington’s actions by stating “slavery was sanctioned by the Bible and by Aristotle”. Although Brookhiser underlines the hypocrisy that Washington used the “rhetoric of resistance to slavery regularly” when corresponding with the British before the Declaration of Independence: he still justifies George Washington as a slave-owner by implying he treated them humanely. It is also suggested that Washington was a good man as at the beginning of “the early 1770s, he rarely bought a slave, and he would not sell one”. In addition to this, the author explains how the “slaves were to be freed at his wife’s death”. However I am sure that these excuses could not justify his behaviour to Black Americans today. Similarly, can George Washington really be considered a hero, or just an immense hypocrite who owned slaves whilst signed the Declaration of Independence, declaring, “all men were created equal” (11). Another way that was intended to preserve him as a hero is that he was a “disapproving owner” (12) and that he would have liked slavery to end but he didn’t personally feel politically driven to put an end to it. George Washington claimed in a letter to Robert Morris that “there is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do, to see a plan adopted for the abolition” of slavery (13). However if he felt so passionately against slavery, he could not have been that heroic or strong as a President as he did not even attempt to implement abolition. It seems that George Washington was fully aware that slavery was morally and humanely wrong, yet was to accustomed to the economic and social ‘benefits’ to want to change the situation. Ironically, the British who George Washington had claimed had been enslaving the American colonies under its tyrannical rule, no longer practised slavery in Britain. Once the war between England and America broke out, the British offered freedom to any slave who ran away from their rebellious owner (14). Despite their efforts Brookhiser suggests again that this was not a “philanthropic project”, once again to justify that they were not morally superior to George Washington. The fact that the first President of the “free and Independent states” (15) was a slave-owner is probably the hardest for people today to accept due to the weakness of character and hypocrisy that is supposed to be a justification for his actions. As well as George Washington’s actions towards slavery, there is the other forgotten flaw of his actions towards natives. In his early life, George Washington was relatively positive towards Indians and was reported as fighting with them as well as against them. Yet from the beginning of the Ohio War in 1790, George Washington came to despise these natives and concentrated on sending troops out to the West across the Ohio River to suppress the Indians. George Washington’s hostility towards them and his desire to suppress them drove him to spend over 80% of the federal budget on combating Indian warfare during his time as President (16). His hatred also caused him to state that the Ohio Indians had “nothing human except the shape” (16). As well as these racist attitudes that George Washington harboured, there are also less significant personal flaws that are rarely exposed in order to preserve his hero status. Firstly there is some evidence that George Washington had an extensive greed for wealth-having been born to prosperous gentry, he was introduced into the kind business in which he sought to make himself richer and later married the richest widow in the colony (17). Secondly there are forgotten facts that show George Washington was incapable of writing his own speeches and even worse at delivering them before the senate. He suffered from stage fright and often “blushed and faltered”, (18) even at his inauguration as President, “he trembled and several times could scarce make out to read his speech” (18) This weakness of his is often glossed over as it doesn’t seem to fit in with his image as the towering, imposing “founding father”. Yet today, it is essential for a President to be able to deliver impressive and clear speeches to the whole country. Finally there are some criticisms that he was not as effective General as is often believed. Thomas Paine claimed that he was a bad general whose strategy consisted of “doing nothing” (19). Although Paine had a personal agenda in condemning George Washington as he resented not being appointed Postmaster-General, and then later by not being rescued from French persecution by the government, it is true that George Washington did lose more battles than he won (20) and often did seem to do nothing for long periods of time. There is also the issue of his harsh treatment towards his own soldiers, any who were caught deserting or plundering were “flogged” (21) and he even a “Gallows near forty feet high erected” to terrify the rest into obedience.



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