Saturday, December 14, 2013

Death of a Great Statesman

It was on this date that George Washington, one of the greatest statesmen, this world has ever known died at his home at Mount Vernon.  He died of pneumonia at age sixty-seven. 

Henry “Light-Horse Harry” Lee in his eulogy proclaimed these famous words about his fellow Virginian: “First in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen, he was second to none in the humble and endearing scenes of private life. Pious, just, humane, temperate and sincere—uniform, dignified and commanding—his example was as edifying to all around him as were the effects of that example lasting. . . . Correct throughout, vice shuddered in his presence and virtue always felt his fostering hand. The purity of his private character gave effulgence to his public virtues. . . . Such was the man for whom our nation mourns.”

Thomas Jefferson wrote: “Perhaps the strongest feature in his character was prudence, never acting until every circumstance, every consideration, was maturely weighed; refraining if he saw a doubt, but, when once decided, going through with his purpose, whatever obstacles opposed.  His integrity was most pure, his justice the most inflexible I have ever known....It my truly be said that never did nature and fortune combine more perfectly to make a great man.”

I’m afraid an entire generation is growing up without reading those words.  Revisionist history has so denigrated the nation’s founders that children don’t look upon them as larger than life heroes, rather often they see them as despots who cheated and schemed to gain power and position while establishing an unjust government.  Is it little wonder that men of character deign to offer themselves for service in this age?

Washington could have been a king, but he would not.  He could have been president for life, but he would not.  He committed all his worldly possessions, his family, and his friends to the quest for a free United States of America.  Today’s toxic political environment is filled with “Me-Firsters.”  Men and women who have enriched themselves dramatically by nefarious deal making, and refuse to step down from the towers of power, even when they physically and mentally can no longer function effectively, now occupy those seats as mere shadows of the great statesmen who went before.

Certainly there have always been charlatans, those for whom personal gain trumped character, and certainly each of the founders had warts aplenty.  However, there were enough men of character to overcome the effects of those self-indulgent personages.  Space does not allow one to elaborate on all those who stood tall during those tumultuous years.  That is what the government education system ought be doing.   We ought be having our children and grandchildren coming home with tales of wonder about the exploits of those who risked everything to give us a land of freedom.  Sadly, I fear, they learn more about the warts than the heroic. 

Lest you think, I’m fatalistic, let me say that as long as God waits to send His greatly longed for Son to bring this age to an end, those who are true Believers in Jesus Christ, and have made Him Lord of their lives have hope.  Our hope is not in the council halls of government, the ivy walls of education, or the churning machine of economic development.  Our hope rests in a sense of illogical peace to the natural mind, our hope rests in the Prince of Peace, whose birth we celebrate this month.

I am endebted to Bill Bennett's American Patriot's Almanac for reminding me of the quotes about Washington included above.

©              2013           Mike Rasberry

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