A real-life Christmas story: Washington’s Gift to America

Here is a Christmas story known to few except historians, well worth reading by all Americans:  Washington’s Gift byThomas Fleming, Wall Street Journal, 24 December 2007 — “Our revolution could have ended in despotism, like so many others.”  Subscription only.

Here is the opening (an open copy appears at the David Gold website):

There is a Christmas story at the birth of this country that very few Americans know. It involves a single act by George Washington — his refusal to take absolute power — that affirms our own deepest beliefs about self-government, and still has profound meaning in today’s world. To appreciate its significance, however, we must revisit a dark period at the end of America’s eight-year struggle for independence.

The story begins with Gen. Washington’s arrival in Annapolis, Md., on December 19, 1783. The country was finally at peace — just a few weeks earlier the last British army on American soil had sailed out of New York harbor. But the previous eight months had been a time of terrible turmoil and anguish for General Washington, outwardly always so composed. His army had been discharged and sent home, unpaid, by a bankrupt Congress — without a victory parade or even a statement of thanks for their years of sacrifices and sufferings.

Instead, not a few congressmen and their allies in the press had waged a vitriolic smear campaign against the soldiers — especially the officers, because they supposedly demanded too much money for back pay and pensions. …

Fleming’s latest book is The Perils of Peace: America’s Struggle for Survival After Yorktown.

Other posts about good news

  1. Good news: The Singularity is coming (again)  (8 December 2007) — History tends to look better over longer time horizons.
  2. Some good news (one of the more important posts on this blog)  (21 December 2007)
  3. Some good news (one of the more important posts on this blog)
  4. A crisis at the beginning of the American experiment  (27 December 2008) — Looking at the problems looming before us, it is easy to forget those of equal or greater danger that we have surmounted in the past.
  5. An important thing to remember as we start a New Year  (29 December 2007) — As we start a New Year I find it useful to review my core beliefs. It is easy to lose sight of those amidst the clatter of daily events. Here is my list…
  6. Is America’s decline inevitable? No.  (21 January 2008)
  7. Let us light a candle while we walk, lest we fear what lies ahead  (10 February 2008) — Need we fear the future?
  8. A happy ending to the current economic recession  (12 February 2008)
  9. Fears of flying into the future  (25 February 2008)
  10. Experts, with wrinkled brows, warn about the future  (2 May 2008) — Experts often see the future with alarm, seeing the dangers but not benefits. That gets attention, from both the media and an increasinly fearful public. Both sides feed this process. It need not be so, as most trends contain the seeds of good and bad futures. This post considers two examples.
  11. Peak Oil Doomsters debunked, end of civilization called off  (8 May 2008)
  12. Good news about the 21st century, a counterbalance to the doomsters  (9 May 2008)
  13. An effective way to support our Troops: help the Blue Star Mothers of America (8 June 2008) — There are ways to support our troops, actions more effective than a bumper sticker on your car.
  14. There is no “peak water” crisis  (19 June 2008)

Click here for all posts discussing good news about America’s future.

7 thoughts on “A real-life Christmas story: Washington’s Gift to America”

  1. Washington was the American Cinncinatus. I could ask why more politicians don’t follow their great example, but it would be rhetorical.

    Thanks for your website, FM.

    1. He wasn’t even a honest troll, I feel so violated… Still a good song, anyway. Does the FM website have a theme song?

      More on topic: Could a Washingtonian sacrifice of power by one of our elites have that same unifying kind of impact today?

      1. (1) “Could a Washingtonian sacrifice of power by one of our elites have that same unifying kind of impact today?”

        Probably not. Washington’s preeminance among the Founders was to a large degree a historical accident. Without that, similar behavior by a politician today would have little effect.

        (2) The FM website has no song (an essential, as we learn in The Emperior’s New Groove). Unfortuntely I have no artistic aptitude, and less knowledge. I’ll check my Katy Perry library. Perhaps Dire Straits “Money For Nothing” would be appropriate, with its New Age of Economics theme:

  2. (1) Not bad FM:

    “Get your money for nothing, get your chicks for free
    Money for nothing, chicks for free
    Look at that, look at that
    Get your money for nothing, get your chicks for free (I want my, I want my, I want my M.T.V.)
    Money for nothing and chicks for free
    Easy, easy
    That ain’t working”

    Knopfler and Clapton…whew…nice. Even then they knew, a long time ago. That ain’t working nor will it work, nor did it “work”.

    (2) Great story; had heard pieces before but not in such detail. The details are what is so overwhelming and so alien and strange to our experience today. Ours today cannot even carry the books of a Paine, Adams, Washington, Jefferson.

    History is a mean professor: “A few months later, Mifflin was forced to quit the army after being accused of stealing millions as quartermaster general.” So common so terribly average … versus, the personal courage of a Washington in this story is almost incomprehensible to us today. How far, so very far we have traveled.

    (3) Christmas is surely about THANKS. And thx to you FM and the commentators, too.


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