His Character and Influence on our Nation, Part Two
As a young boy, George was educated at home. During two periods of time, he went to a local village school, but most of his education came from home by his father and older brothers, Lawrence and Augustine. Throughout his life, he praised his mother and acknowledged the great debt that he owed her for the daily habits and faithfulness of her love of Scripture. They quoted it daily together in the home. The "Rules of Civility" that his father brought back from the school in England were lived out in his life, throughout his life. The book has been published and re-published in America even until today. I have a copy of the 110 Rules of conduct, published in the l980's, which I treasure.
George was visiting cousins 18 miles away when his father became critically ill, and he was rushed home. His father died the next day, April 12, 1743. Imagine the shock to them all, and the burden placed on Mary Washington. We are fortunate to have many records, and some in amazing detail of his outstanding Christian mother. The early death of her husband proved her Christian character was firmly grounded, and that her industriousness enabled her to manage a huge burden of responsibilities with amazing ability and without great material resources. Lawrence, in describing his step-mother, wrote "of her well ordered household." He spoke of George's love of his mother, and of her trust in Divine Providence for her son. Those closest to Mary Washington knew that everyday, without fail, she went to a secluded spot for her special prayer time. We can imagine how much of the prayer was for her son, so often in danger, and always with staggering responsibilities.
One can imagine how difficult it was for George, after his father's death, to manage the school work and the farm labor. The serious study of agriculture had long interested him and the fascination of growing tobacco was a great learning experience for him, as he worked alongside the farm workers. The tiny little tobacco plants had to be transplanted in long field rows, weeds had to be controlled, and George had to master the skills to inspire the workers. So many journalists have poured over his notebooks, still in the Washington Archives.
After August Washington's death, there had to be an inventory of his possessions. The entire list is available for us to review. The remarkable thing about looking over the list is to see how very simply this family lived. There is no evidence of elegance, of elaborate home furnishings. Everything was adequate but not ornate. George had a great inheritance, none the less. His life was full of energy, courage, wisdom, influence, and always...assurance of eternal life. All of the research of the several centuries, documents the fact, that George's entire life shows that his parents gave their "all" to form the Christian character in their son. As we study his life, we see that he never, NEVER, misused his power as Commander in Chief in the American Revolution or as President of the United States. Never did he bully his contemporaries or even act "less" than the gentleman that he was. He never misused his authority.
One of the first "grown up books" that he referred to was a book that focused on living out Christianity. It was by the Rev. Thomas Comber and titled, Discourses. On the first page, he would have read these words: "Prayer is the lifting up of the soul, to converse with God and a means to obtain all of His blessings." He read about confessing one's sins, and being assured of being forgiven. Scriptures were explained thoroughly, such as in "The Lord's Prayer" and multitudes of Old and New Testament passages. The Anglican Church in that day reflected the great teaching of the Reformation.
His First Great Achievement for His Nation
In the fall of 1753, French forces had taken command of the Ohio Valley. Governor Dinwiddie searched for someone to deliver a letter to the French commander, that this territory was British territory, and that the French must withdraw. George, now 21 years old, volunteered to carry the letter. This was a one thousand mile wilderness journey undertaken during the winter months. His guide was Christopher Gist, referred to as "the most experienced frontiersman trader of the day." Both men left a written account of the journey, relating the contacts with the Indians, including their efforts at managing Indian diplomacy. The cold was so severe, that Gist wrote of having all of his fingers and some toes frozen. At one time during the journey, they constructed a raft, but had only one small hatchet and no other tools. They wrote of being thrown off the raft at one point.
Because of this experience and his faithfulness, George would later serve as an aide to Governor Bradford in another expedition against the French. The battle was chaos and ended in defeat for George's forces. This would be the only defeat that George would experience throughout his life.
Greatly respected by now, George was chosen at age 23, to head the position of Commander in Chief of the Frontier Forces of Virginia. For three long years he fought against the French and Indian forces. Everyday there was a fight for food, for munitions, for uniforms, for transport, for military equipment, and for wages to pay his men. Through these experiences he learned the greatest lesson of all: that discipline and self-government is the very soul of an army. In these three years, he was being trained to lead the American Revolution.
Washington Irving's Life of Washington, has a steel engraving showing George Washington as a young man. A man who knew Washington well, wrote, after seeing the engraving,"It is the best likeness of the Chief, the one of all others most resembling him."
Perhaps His Greatest Achievement
For eight long years, he carried this burden, inspired his soldiers, fought the British and displayed genius in leading his army to victory. Sometimes overlooked is the confidence of the folk back home in whom he had instilled total trust, by his faith, by his leadership, and by his vision for our new nation.
The world was watching. There had never been a Revolution like this one. Ours should be called The War for Independence, for that is what it was. The only objective was freedom for the new nation. He trained his leaders carefully, and they in turn, trained the troops for the entire army. Discipline and courage prevailed. Military experts claim that George Washington accomplished more with less resources than any military leader in world history. He determined to have a Union of 13 Colonies, where each one retained their liberty and rule of law.
The tragedies suffered at Valley Forge in the winter of 1777 and 1778, were beyond our ability even to comprehend such suffering. Supplies were lacking, pay was 4-5 months behind, and there were no barracks, huts, or shelters. The tents were hardly shelters and winter had set in. Food and clothing were far from adequate. The fact that several thousand soldiers remained to endure such pain can only be explained by Washington's leadership. He walked among the troops during the night hours. They saw tears on many occasions and wrote about it. The Valley Forge story gives us a glimmer of the price that many paid for our liberty. Looking back over that time period, Washington later wrote, "Naked and starving though they were, we cannot enough admire the incomparable patience and fidelity of the soldiers."
U. S. Senator Albert J. Beveridgge made a thorough study of Washington's life, career and achievements. He concluded from his study, "Washington was the soul of the American cause. Washington was the government. Washington was the Revolution."
The Senator was correct in his assessment. George Washington was the only American leader that we could name who had the total trust of the American people. They had complete trust in his leadership and he instilled in them a trust for the Union being formed for their liberty. Under different leadership, we may never have had the Constitution that we have today, where the colonies retained their liberty and rule of law, and the Union did as well. Thanks to Washington's leadership, the Constitution became a reality. He instilled assurance and confidence that this was God's Providence for the new nation. Thirty of the 55 delegates to the Convention had been officers under his command during the Revolution. Think about that.
Within the new government, there were warring factions. Washington had the patience and wisdom to cut through the chaos, reaching out to the ordinary citizens. At the opening of the Constitutional Convention, Washington is quoted as saying. "Let us raise a standard to which the wise and the honest can repair, the outcome is in the hand of God." John Fiske wrote about Washington's influence throughout the convention, speaking of "Washington's glorious spirit."
It is likely that Washington would have liked to retire to his farm after the war was over. However, he had been prepared Providentially to take the Presidency. He was the only man in whom every state could place their trust. By this time, he had the respect of many foreign nations. His sincerity and modesty was evident at his Inauguration. In his first official act, he promised "my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the Universe, who presides in the council of nations, and whose Providential aids can supply every human defect."
Looking over his two terms as President, he prayed for our nation: "That Heaven may continue to grant you the choicest tokens of His beneficence----that your union and brotherly affection be perpetual--that the free constitution, which is the work of your hands, may be sacredly maintained--that its administration in every department may be stamped with wisdom and virtue--that in time, the happiness of the people of these states under the auspices of Liberty may be made complete."
I want to quote one of the two scholars who founded the Foundation for American Christian Education in the 1960s in San Francisco, California. They compiled more primary research on Washington that any current foundation in the nation. Their book referenced below is a treasure. Quoting Verna Hall on the subject of Washington's character:
"If one is not himself knowledgeable of the admonitions in the Bible, the fruits of the Spirit, the fruits of the flesh, he cannot fully comprehend the life of George Washington. Additionally, even a Christian must not judge Washington from a doctrinal or sectarian prejudice, otherwise, the full wonder of this Bible-Christian life cannot be recognized. George Washington is unique, but not unique from his times. He is the natural product of a Bible believing people. If one would really know George Washington, he must be a Bible-believing scholar such as he." Verna M. Hall, Foundation for American Christian Education.
“Virginia gave us this inspired man--This unblemished gentleman---What can we give her back but love and praise?” James Russell Lowell
Valley Forge, 1777, "Let vice and immorality of every kind be discouraged as much as possible in your regiment, and see, as a Chaplain is allowed to it, that the men regularly attend Worship. Gaming of every kind is expressly forbid as the foundation of evil, and the ruin of many a brave, and good officer. Games of exercise for amusement, may be not only allowed, but encouraged." George Washington
The Marquis De Lafayette arrived from France in 1777 and developed a Father–Son relationship with George Washington. He fought in many battles and was wounded at Brandywine. His love for Washington led him to name his own son, George Washington Lafayette.
Recommended reading: The Making of GEORGE WASHINGTON by William Wilber.
The book, George Washington, The Character And Influence of One Man is available at Emerald Mountain Christian School by calling Bobbie Ames at 398-1141. It is also available from the publisher, The Foundation for American Christian Education, through their website at FACE.Net.