If George Washington was President of the United States today, in 2016, would we have problems with anarchy in the streets, and the lack of leadership in domestic conflicts?
In 1782/1783, the American Revolution was drawing to a close, and the central government, the Confederation, and the thirteen states were practically bankrupt; the soldiers who had fought for the past eight years were unpaid; officers were frustrated by the apathy that citizens and political leaders had toward the men who had sacrificed themselves and suffered privation since 1775.
In this scenario, military coup threatened. Many soldiers and officers believed that if George Washington, the commander of American forces, did not take military control of the United States, all that they had fought for—peace and independence—would be lost.
Today, we hear that the Executive abuses the power of the office, bypassing Congress by issuing Executive Orders. What would it be to have a leader who resisted the temptation of power? In 1783, at Newburgh, New York, officers of the army requested General Washington to take power over Congress, over the States, with the military to back him up, to ensure that order and domestic tranquility would prevail.
Washington, six years before he became President under the Constitution of the United States, as the Commander in Chief of the Continental Army at the end of war, when, history shows, countries are susceptible to military overthrow, refused to consider the coup, the chance to become king or military dictator. His answer was a resounding “no.”
Washington during the war had often come under attack for his evenhandedness. His military approach of outlasting the British was frustrating to some, who wanted to see great victories. It was precisely Washington’s ability to stand above the fray, to exhibit uncommon patience, to calm tempers, to seek the higher, middle ground, that guaranteed his success as Commander during the Revolution and President of the United States from 1789 to 1797.
Washington had many faults of course. He had errors in judgment when it came to his beliefs and actions toward people who really deserved his support and protection. Nevertheless, for the time in which he lived, he had uncommon wisdom, and was truly a father-figure for the American people.
When was the last time we had a father-figure as a President of the United States?
But Washington was such a man. And even though the officers at Newburgh wanted to take military control of the United States, Washington’s wisdom, patriotism, moderation, and superb leadership prevented this from happening. It set a precedent. Unlike so many other countries, never in our history have we had a military coup.
Who else but George Washington could have led America to independence? Who else but Washington could have served successfully as the first President in the experimental situation of the new American government in 1789?
There has never been a military leader, a President, like George Washington. We need such a leader today.