"Evil is powerless if the good are unafraid" - Ronald Reagan

New York

Washington's Gift

Thomas Fleming writes of George Washington's Christmas gift to Americans in The WSJ.

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.

At noon, on December 23rd, George Washington resigned as President.

"Mr. President," he began in a low, strained voice. "The great events on which my resignation depended having at length taken place; I now have the honor of offering my sincere congratulations to Congress and of presenting myself before them to surrender into their hands the trust committed to me, and to claim the indulgence of retiring from the service of my country."

Thomas Jefferson, witnessed the speech and wrote,

The moderation. . . . of a single character," he later wrote, "probably prevented this revolution from being closed, as most others have been, by a subversion of that liberty it was intended to establish."

Other parts of this article, filled with graft in the government, the unpaid Continental Army, other countries wondering if this young democracy would succeed or secede into 13 independent states sound eerily familiar to another new democracy -- Iraq.


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