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Power has been known to squander mankind since our very existence. It seems to be in our blood to use our power not for the good of society, but to better ourselves. The greatest tyrants in history ruled because they had acquired the power of command. Most who see this power cannot overcome the lust to attain a greater prestige. However, George Washington overcame this yearning of perpetual virtue by voluntarily stepping down from office after eight years of rule, which makes him the greatest president in American history.
He provided the quintessential example of how an American puts his country’s needs before his very own.
Many men would enter the initial American presidency as a patriot, but die a tyrant. Throughout history we are provided with examples of how men falter when they are given full power of a people. Attila the Hun, Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, and Saddam Hussein, these are but a mere fraction of the men that failed their people because they allowed their prestige to overwhelm them.
Some of the most evil actions in history were done because there was a wicked absolute ruler.
George III said George Washington was “the greatest man in the world” (Getting To Pg. 134) because he stepped down as the general of the Continental Army. George Washington left the presidency the same way he left his army, with dignity. (Getting TO Pg. 134) Washington realized he had done his job on both ends and the country would have to finish what he started if it were to survive.
He cut all dependence on him off, and wanted to see what the country was truly made of. (Getting To Pg. 135) General Washington had done what others before him failed to, step down when the nation is on the brink of success or destruction. It is not that he did not care for the United States of America, but he felt it necessary for it to learn to survive on its own, without his prudent guidance.
In his farewell address Washington assured Americans that he was not abandoning them, but stepping down from office so another citizen would have the opportunity to lead America to a prosperous future. (Farewell Address Pg. 1) Washington tells us that he had an inclination to return to retirement, as he hoped he would be able to before he was elected to be president. (Farewell Address Pg. 2) He had control of a country whose first constitution was a disgrace and levied far too much power to a single individual. It would have been fairly simple for George Washington to decide to take full control of the country and push it in a direction it had no intention of going. However, he was a moral man that thought of his fellow Americans over himself. George came to the realization that his job was to make his neighbors as happy as he possibly could. (Farewell Address Pg. 3) It was his civil duty to cater the concerns of the Americans that surrounded him, and not to use his power to improve his personal status. (Farewell Address Pg. 3)
While in office Washington faced many arduous tasks which he confronted without fear. One of the primary concerns was to preserve the union. It was in fact so important that it was one of the main points in his farewell address. (Farewell Address Pg. 3) He spoke about the difficulties of attempting to keep the peace between the “north” and the “south” whom had been interwoven through The Constitution. (Farewell Address Pg. 5) He did not use his powers to benefit one side, but acted as a mediator and brought the two sides together. He made it evident to both sides that a successful America was only impossible without their coercion. (Farewell Address Pg. 5) Stepping down under his own volition is not the only factor that makes George Washington the best president. He also made many crucial decisions that put America on the path to success. Some of the pertinent arrangements Washington agreed to or created were the Bill of
Rights, establishing a citizen president rather than the monarch system which uses a king, and establishing a cabinet in our federal government. These three crucial decisions created a foundation for our government.
The Bill of Rights is the foundation of our Constitution, which gives American citizens certain inalienable rights that we have been endowed by our creator. However, they were not instituted immediately. George Washington realized that many basic human rights were omitted from the Constitution. In his first inaugural address President Washington urged Congress to create additional laws that entail a free people protected from standing armies, religious persecution, and a freedom from economic injustices such as monopolies. (The Bill Pg. 1) It was his words that motivated Congress to create the Bill of Rights. It was not until 1791 that the bill was finished, but it was Washington’s first inaugural address that started the discussions about expanding citizens’ rights.
After George Washington moved the capital to Washington D.C. he had a pivotal decision to make. He could either establish a government similar to England’s monarch, or he could develop another type of governing body. George Washington was very familiar with world history and comprehended the danger of creating another monarchy. History proved that man, alone, cannot be trusted. Washington realized man was easily corrupted either by himself, or those surrounding him. No single man can overcome the temptations that present themselves when he is entrusted with the power of a whole society. He easily could have taken the Machiavellian approach to society and became a successful, ruthless ruler, but he chose to put America’s needs before his own. President Washington elected to set up a government that, ironically, protected itself from man’s self-destructive nature.
George Washington knew he could not set up an entire government body on his own, so he decided to elect people whom he thought had the suitable character to assist him. He decided to choose four members. He assigned each of these members to a specified departments that was prominent part of America’s society. His four departments that made up his cabinet were: State, Treasury, War, and Attorney General. He elected Thomas Jefferson to assist him with basic State matters, and Alexander Hamilton to help with the treasury. Also, Henry Knox was to be head of the War department while choosing Edmund Randolph to be the Attorney General.
Washington elected these men because they had proven themselves during the American Revolution, and in the debates that occurred after the war. Each man had helped shaped our nation in one way or another. Thomas Jefferson was elected because of his intellectual prowess and love for America. He wrote the Declaration of Independence and his resume does not need to extend any further than that. Being the author of that document proved he could handle matters that were substantial to the nation’s existence.
Alexander Hamilton was assigned to the Treasury because of his knowledge of the U.S. economy. He had written about his beliefs in The Federalist Papers. His most prominent stance is probably his intentions to instill a national bank. He believed that creating a national bank would allow America’s economy to become as dominant as the other prestigious nations around the world. However, he believed America’s first step should be settling their debts. (Alexander Pg.1) Hamilton told President Washington and the rest of America’s citizens they must pay off their debts to other nations so others can view the United States as a stable nation. (Alexander Pg. 1) He believed that America’s newly founded government should pay off the debt, opposed to the individual states. Alexander proved to be an excellent choice.
Next was the Secretary of War, Henry Knox. He became close to President Washington during the Revolutionary War. (Henry Pg. 1) Henry proved to be an admirable officer and Washington promoted him to Chief Artillery Officer of the Continental Army. (Henry Pg. 1) Washington became impressed with his military intelligence and rewarded him for it by appointing him this job. With this responsibility he was put in charge of land and naval military operations. He proved to be a wise choice as well.
Finally, there is Edmund Randolph. He earned his reputation through his idea of the Virginia Plan. (Edmund Pg. 1) This plan is what has lead to our Congress. His plan stated there should be bilateral houses in a legislative branch, and each state would have representation. (Edmund Pg. 1) Washington was impressed with his proposed legislation, and this was a major reason for electing him as the Attorney General. He worked hand-in-hand with George Washington and made many decisions that still affect our country today.
The instillation of the U.S. cabinet was a major step in creating a government “for the people, by the people” (United States Pg. 2) Washington initiated a presidency that has one primary goal: ensure the U.S. becomes and/or remains the greatest nation this world has ever seen. This cabinet was established by President Washington because he knew he could not run this country alone. He knew that Congress and the other elected politicians could not assist him with the every-day decisions that he needed to make. So, he chose four men he trusted most to aid him with those arduous decisions. Creating a cabinet was one of the most brilliant decisions Washington had come up with.
The final reason for George Washington being the best president in our nation’s history was his view of the United States Constitution. President Washington had a very strict view of the Constitution, which meant he believed the Constitution should be followed word by word; there was not much room for argument of interpretation for the laws in the eyes of Washington. (Surveying the Land Pg. 1) His view of the Constitution lead to a future of strict observance of the law, and lead to a civilized America. Mr. Washington delegated his belief to Congress that people must enforce exactly what the Constitution states. He especially believed in a strong government for each state. (The Gilder Pg 1) Washington realized that many nations fail because the central governing body was too powerful, and controlled the states. Which, lead to rebellion and civil war. (The Gilder Pg. 1) He knew that each state must have enough power to override the central government if corruption were ever to occur. His strict view of the Constitution is what permitted him to make national decisions that were essential for our future existence.
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