It Was A Very Good Year, But…

…only as one looks back with hindsight’s 20/20 vision. What was the year? 1776!  We date the very birth of our country from that year, focusing our attention primarily on the “doings” in June and early July that culminated in  Mr Jefferson’s finest work, although it was not his alone, the Declaration of Independence.

Quite a phrase that is, even 233 years and 9 months hence. But as David McCullough writes in his excellent book of the same name, 1776 was known maybe more for its failures than successes at least as far as  the Revolutionary War itself. He writes of the Battle of Brooklyn that was an American disaster, the retreat from Boston, a crushing defeat at Ft Washington and on it goes. Were it not for the near miraculous crossing of the Delaware and the victories at Trenton and Princeton, all could have been lost.

What fascinated me even more were the insights into George Washington, both good and bad. He was indeed highly thought of by his men and officers, but there were flaws. He was somewhat lacking in strategy and tactics, particularly in the early days. He showed several marked examples of poor judgment as well. But, perhaps the key as McCullough  writes, he never forgot what was at stake and he never gave up. In both his words and deeds, the concept keeps recurring, perseverance. As Nathaniel Greene so aptly foresaw,” he will be the deliverer of his own country.”

But perhaps for me this next showed Washington at his best and foreshadowed his attitude towards the presidency and the near hero worship status he was accorded. In late 1776, Congress gave him, for a period of six months, near dictatorial powers. A lesser man could have done irreparable damage to the  country while edifying himself above civil authority. In our time , in many countries, we have seen that very thing. But this was his response.

                   ” Instead of thinking myself freed from all civil obligations by this mark of their confidence, I shall constantly bear in mind that as the sword was the last resort for the preservation of our liberties, so it ought to be the first thing laid aside when those liberties are firmly established.”

The Father of his county indeed and a good example to follow.


April 1, 2010 - Posted by | History | , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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