Thursday, April 30, 2009

Father of his Country

220 years ago today, on April 30, 1789, George Washington was sworn in as the first President of the United States. He wore a brown suit.

The brief ceremony took place on Wall Street, appropriately enough. Few realize this but Washington was the richest president we've ever had. Some of his wealth was in land, but most was in slaves, never mind about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It was acquired wealth: he married a rich widow.

President Washington refused to be called “your highness,” preferring the less formal “Mr. President." But he was not a humble man. Not chummy. Ask his friends privately and they'd probably have told you he was stuffy. People didn't joke about him. He'd spent his whole life learning the mannerisms of an aristocrat and was determined to behave like one. He spent most of the American Revolution losing battles, withdrawing, escaping, hiding, retreating, but always with dignity.

Washington had excellent posture. The chief reason he was chosen to chair important meetings was because he was always the tallest person in the room. And he kept his mouth shut. (Bad teeth.) He was also incorruptible. A consensus choice as leader, and, as it turned out, the perfect president for that moment. He set a high standard nobody came close to until another tall man was elected––from Illinois.

These and a few other stories about Washington are told on pages 12, 38, 68, 89, 167, 170, 213, 218, 229 and 239 in A Book of Ages.

No comments:

Post a Comment