Washington's Words of Wisdom

Today, February 22, we celebrate the birth of George Washington in 1732. We all know the many stories of Washington, who easily is one of the greatest political figures in world history, if not the single greatest.


But it is his actual words that portray how wonderful he was. He was a leader of men, a philosopher, an observer of human nature, and very witty, in a dry, erudite way. Here are some of his timeless quotes taken, with appreciation, from the website notable-quotes.com, with my comment after each:


“It is with pleasure I receive reproof, when reproof is due, because no person can be readier to accuse me, than I am to acknowledge an error, when I am guilty of one; nor more desirous of atoning for a crime, when I am sensible of having committed it.” Comment: Washington knew that willingness to admit one’s fallibility is an essential ingredient for genuine success.


Labour to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire, called conscience.” Comment: Without conscience, we are but animals.


“It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliance with any portion of the foreign world.” Comment: This may appear to be isolationism, but it is more like common sense.


“Few men have virtue enough to withstand the highest bidder.” Comment: Washington saw into men’s souls. All the way.


“A people… who are possessed of the spirit of commerce, who see and who will pursue their advantages may achieve almost anything.” Comment: This is true, and an advertisement for the free-market capitalism upon which America was based.


“I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is the best policy.” Comment: How often have we said this without knowing who said it first?


“Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains taken to bring it to light.” Comment: This is why so many people are destroyed by seeking to hide or manipulate the truth. Like Al Gore.


 “As a very important source of strength and security, cherish public credit. One method of preserving it is, to use it as sparingly as possible…” Comment: Why have we allowed our leaders to ignore this wisdom?


“To contract new debts is not the way to pay old ones.” Comment: Except to Democrats…


“There is nothing so likely to produce peace as to be well prepared to meet an enemy.” Comment: Peace through strength. It is a timeless credo.


Liberty, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth.” Comment: Yes, because people quickly realize that it is the highest state for mankind, and wish to nurture it.


“The cause of our common country calls us both to an active and dangerous duty; Divine Providence, which wisely orders the affairs of men, will enable us to discharge it with fidelity and success.” Comment: Washington truly was a Christian believer in the goodness of God. Don’t ever believe anyone who says otherwise.


“Associate with men of good quality, if you esteem your own reputation; for it is better to be alone than in bad company.” Comment: Is that ever the truth.


“The right wing, where I stood, was exposed to and received all the enemy’s fire … I heard the bullets whistle, and, believe me, there is something charming in the sound.” Comment: These are the words of a true patriot, soldier and freedom fighter. And cool as a cucumber.


 “No People can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the Affairs of men more than the People of the United States. Every step, by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation, seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency.” Comment: Again, Washington was a true believer in the divine power of a Supreme Being, and that His hand was essential in creating our great nation.


 “Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.” Comment: This is the source of Washington’s greatness – a recognition of the power of government and the fervent desire to restrain it.


 “Should the States reject this excellent Constitution, the probability is, an opportunity will never again offer to cancel another in peace—the next will be drawn in blood.” Comment: Washington knew that the establishment of American liberty was perhaps a once-in-history proposition.  


 “I do not mean to exclude altogether the idea of patriotism. I know it exists, and I know it has done much in the present contest. But I will venture to assert, that a great and lasting war can never be supported on this principle alone. It must be aided by a prospect of interest, or some reward.” Comment: This is a brilliant observation about the essence of human nature.


“To form a new government requires infinite care and unbounded attention; for if the foundation is badly laid, the superstructure must be bad.” Comment: This is universal, for buildings as well as government. And everything else.


“To place any dependence upon militia is assuredly resting upon a broken staff. Men just dragged from the tender scenes of domestic life, unaccustomed to the din of arms, totally unacquainted with every kind of military skill … makes them timid and ready to fly from their own shadows.” Comment: This is very shrewd and funny and a little demeaning. But hey, it’s true.


“Soap is another article in great demand–the Continental allowance is too small, and dear, as every necessary of life is now got, a soldier’s pay will not enable him to purchase, by which means his consequent dirtiness adds not a little to the disease of the Army.” Comment: Washington even could talk about the critical nature of soap. What a guy!


 “I hate deception, even where the imagination only is concerned.” Comment: This is deep. Very deep. From a deep man.


“Facts may speak for themselves.” Comment: How often have we said this without knowing its origin?


“Example, whether it be good or bad, has a powerful influence.” Comment: Washington knew well about how humans can influence others.


“The best way to preserve the confidence of the people durably is to promote their true interests.” Comment: This is Politics 101, although many political leaders seem to ignore it.


“It is easy to make acquaintances, but very difficult to shake them off, however irksome and unprofitable they are found, after we have once committed ourselves to them.” Comment: How true.


“Do not conceive that fine clothes make fine men any more than fine feathers make fine birds.” Comment: Hilarious.


“Avoid gaming. This is a vice which is productive of every possible evil; equally injurious to the morals and health of its votaries. It is the child of avarice, the brother of iniquity, and father of mischief. It has been the ruin of many worthy families, the loss of many a man’s honor, and the cause of Suicide.” Comment: This is brilliant, for all those advocates who think that gambling is a good thing for their states.


“I have always considered marriage as the most interesting event of one’s life, the foundation of happiness or misery.” Comment: Again, very witty, concise and true.


“When a people shall have become incapable of governing themselves, and fit for a master, it is of little consequence from what quarter he comes.” Comment: Wisdom for the ages.


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