TO ALL MEN WHO REVERE THE SACRED
MEMORY OF WASHINGTON,
ADMIRE HIS EXALTED VIRTUES,
AND APPLAUD HIS GREAT AND GLORIOUS ACHIEVEMENT
A REPOSITORY OF HIS ENNOBLING SENTIMENTS,
IS RESPECTFULLY DEDICATED
Speculative reasoners, during that age, raised many objections to the planting of those remote Colonies; and foretold, that, after draining their mother-country of inhabitants, they would soon shake off her yoke, and erect an independent government in America. (David Hume, History of Eng., James I.; a. d. 1603-1625. Written, a. d. 1752)
This great man fought against tyranny; he established the liberty of his country His memory will always be dear to the French people, as it will be to all freemen of the two worlds. ~ Napoleon Bonaparte, Feb. 9th, 1800
If we look over the catalogue of the first magistrates of nations, whether they have been denominated Presidents or Consuls, Kings or Princes, where shall we find one, whose commanding talents and virtues, whose overruling good fortune, have so completely united all hearts and voices in his favor? Who enjoyed the esteem and admiration of foreign nations, and fellow-citizens, with equal unanimity? Qualities so uncommon are no common blessings to the country that possesses them. By these great qualities, and their benign effects, has Providence marked out the Head of this Nation, with a hand so distinctly visible, as to have been seen by all and mistaken by none. ~ John Adams, 1789.
His example is complete; and it will teach wisdom and virtue to Magistrates, Citizens, and Men, not only in the present age, but in future generations. ~ John Adams, 1799
The only man in the United States, who possessed the confidence of all. There was no other one, who was considered as anything more than a party leader.
The whole of his character was in its mass perfect, in nothing bad, in a few points indifferent. And it may be truly said, that never did nature and fortune combine more perfectly to make a man great, and to place him in the same constellation with whatever worthies have merited from man an everlasting remembrance. ~ Thomas Jefferson
Lord Brougham, in speaking of the Father of our Country, calls him “the Greatest man of our own or any age; the Only One upon whom an epithet, so thoughtlessly lavished by men to foster the crimes of their worst enemies, may be innocently and justly bestowed.” He adds, “It will be the duty of the historian and the sage, in all ages, to let no occasion pass, of commemorating this illustrious man; and, until time shall be no more, will a test of the progress which our race has made in wisdom and in virtue, be derived from the veneration paid to the immortal name of Washington.”
The powerful influence of his character, his achievements, and his opinions, is acknowledged by all men. It has long been extending and increasing. And it cannot fail to produce, eventually, the most important and happy results, in the fulfillment of the final destinies of nations, and the attainment of the chief end of human existence.
By common consent, Washington is regarded as not merely the Hero of the American Revolution, but the World’s Apostle of Liberty. The war of the Revolution was a war of principle, that involved the interests of all mankind. England’s violation of our sacred rights, was the stirring of the eagle’s nest. It naturally awakened emotions of resistance. British prerogative was opposed by American freedom. Prerogative became arbitrary, and Freedom asserted her rights; Prerogative became oppressive and cruel, and Freedom took up arms and declared her independence The spirit of America’s cause was impersonated in her great chief. He was a manifestation of the nation’s heart and mind. And under his judicious guidance, by the providence of God, America not only stood erect, before the world, clothed in the panoply of justice, but moved steadily onward in her course; her shield, and breastplate, and whole armor flashing, at every step, with the light that shone on her from heaven.
Our victory being won, Washington sheathed his sword, and sat, for a brief space, under the shadow of his own vine and fig-tree. Soon, at the nation’s call, he guided her in establishing the foundation, and rearing the superstructure, of her vast and imposing political fabric. He saw its topstone laid. And he was exulting, with holy joy, at the completion of his work, when the Supreme Disposer of events, by suddenly removing him from earth, in the fullness of his glory and renown, consecrated his character, and imparted to his opinions the commanding authority which they now possess.
The first name of America, not only is, but always will be, that of Washington. We pronounce it with filial reverence, as well as gratitude; for we admire and love him, not merely in consideration of what he did, but what he was. There is a sacred charm in his actions and his sentiments, as well as a divine philosophy in his remarkable career.
But his example and his precepts are a legacy, not only to America, but to all mankind. And as they are contemplating and admiring his virtues, they are invited to read, in his own words, his golden maxims. These are adapted to the use of Statesmen, Soldiers, Citizens, heads of families, teachers of youth, and, in a word, all who should aim at what is great and good, in public and in private life, and who would avail themselves of such sagacious, profound, and ennobling sentiments.
With a view to furnish, for popular use, a small volume of the words of Washington, the labor of culling and arranging his memorable precepts in this collection, was originally undertaken. Public documents and private letters, manuscripts and printed volumes, have accordingly been examined, with a view to the completeness and interest of the collection; and none but undoubtedly authentic materials have been used in forming it.
The late Earl Of Buchan, whose uniform regard for the American States was manifested long before the epoch of their Federal Union, said of our Washington, “I recommend the constant remembrance of the moral and political Maxims conveyed to its citizens by the Father and Founder of the United States. It seems to me, that such Maxims and such advice ought to be engraved on every Forum or Place Of Common Assembly among the people, and read by parents, teachers, and guardians, to their children and pupils, so that True Religion, And Virtue, its inseparable attendant, may be imbibed by the rising generation, to remote ages.”
That generation after generation may enjoy the blessedness of the benign influence which these Maxims are so eminently calculated to exert, should surely be the prayer of patriots, philanthropists, and Christians, until all men shall be animated by the spirit of Washington, and exemplify his precepts.
J. F. Schroeder: New York September 12th 1854
Taken from the preface to the Maxims of Washington published 1894
A few examples of his wisdom:
The aggregate happiness of society, which is best promoted by the practice of a virtuous policy, is, or ought to be, the end of all Government.
Let us have a Government, by which our lives, liberties, and properties will be secured.
Born in a land of liberty; having early learned its value; having engaged in the perilous conflict to defend it; having, in a word, devoted the best years of my life to secure its permanent establishment in my own country; my anxious recollections, my sympathetic feelings, and my best wishes are irresistibly attracted, whensoever in any country I see an oppressed nation unfurl the banners of freedom.
ANARCHY AND TYRANNY:
There is a natural and necessary progression, from the extreme of anarchy to the extreme of tyranny; and arbitrary power is most easily established, on the ruins of liberty abused to licentiousness.
Republicanism is not the phantom of a deluded imagination. On the contrary, laws, under no form of government, are better supported, liberty and property better secured, or happiness’ more effectually dispensed to mankind.
EVILS OF DEMOCRACY:
It is among the evils, and perhaps not the smallest, of Democratical Governments, that the people must feel, before they will see. When this happens, they are roused to action. Hence it is, that those kinds of government are so slow.
It is one of the evils of Democratical Governments, that the people, not always seeing, and frequently misled, must often feel before they can act right; but then evils of this nature seldom fail to work their own cure.
I am fully of opinion, that those who lean to a Monarchial Government have either not consulted the public mind, or that they live in a region, which, (the leveling principles in which they were bred being entirely eradicated,) is much more productive of monarchial ideas, than is the case in the Southern States, where, from the habitual distinctions which have always existed among the people, one would have expected the first generation, and the most rapid growth, of them.
I am told, that even respectable characters speak of a Monarchial Form of Government, without horror. From thinking proceeds speaking; thence to acting is often but a single step. But, how irrevocable and tremendous! What a triumph for our enemies to verify their predictions! What a triumph for the advocates of Despotism, to find, that we are incapable of governing ourselves, and that systems founded on the basis of equal liberty, are merely ideal and fallacious! “86.
It is a little strange, that the men of large property in the South, should be more afraid that the Constitution will produce an Aristocracy or a Monarchy, than the genuine democratical people of the East. 1788.
NOBILITY AND KNIGHTHOOD:
It appears to be incompatible with the principles of our national Constitution, to admit the introduction of any kind of Nobility, Knighthood, or distinctions of a similar nature, amongst the citizens of our republic.
HERALDRY AND REPUBLICANISM:
It is far from my design to intimate an opinion, that Heraldry, Coat-armor, &c., might not be rendered conducive to public and private uses with us; or that they can have any tendency unfriendly to the purest spirit of Republicanism. On the contrary, a different conclusion is deducible from the practice of Congress, and the States; all of which have established some kind of Armorial Devices, to authenticate their official instruments.
Give the leave, my dear General, to present you with a picture of the Bastille, just as it looked a few days after I had ordered its demolition,—with the main key of the fortress of despotism. It is a tribute, which I owe, as a son to my adoptive father, as an Aide-de-camp to my General, as a Missionary of liberty to its Patriarch. ~ Lafayette, March 17,1790.
Liberty, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth.
The political state of affairs in France, seems to be in a delicate situation. What will be the issue, is not easy to determine; but the spirit which is diffusing itself, may produce changes in that government, which, a few years ago, could hardly have been dreamt of.
A spirit of equal liberty appears fast to be gaining ground everywhere ; which must afford satisfaction to every friend of mankind.
If we mean to support the liberty and independence, which it has cost as so much blood and treasure to establish, we must drive far away the demon of party spirit and local reproach.
Should the conduct of the Americans, whilst promoting their own happiness, influence the feelings of other nations, and thereby render a service to mankind, they will receive a double pleasure.
Interwoven as is the love of liberty with every ligament of our hearts, no recommendation of mine is necessary, to fortify or confirm the attachment.
None of them [the colonies] will ever submit to the loss of those valuable rights and privileges, which are essential to the happiness of every free State, without which, life, liberty, and property are rendered totally insecure.
In a government as free as ours, where the people are at liberty, and will express their sentiments, (oftentimes imprudently, and, for want of information, sometimes unjustly,) allowances must be made for occasional effervescences; but, after the declaration which I have made of my political creed, you can run no hazard in asserting, that the Executive branch of this government never has suffered, nor will suffer while I preside, any improper conduct of its officers to escape with impunity, nor give its sanction to any disorderly proceedings of its citizens.