George Washington: commander of the Continental Army, founding father, first President of the United States. Arguably no American, past or present, has been more influential than the general who led the Patriot forces to victory in the American Revolutionary War. Nor has any been so well remembered: Washington has been memorialized in the name of the nation’s capital and a U.S. state, as well as in monuments, currency, stamps, and more.
As is often the case with historical figures, Washington’s legacy has been reconsidered in the light of our modern world, particularly his relationship with slavery. He enslaved hundreds of people during his lifetime. And, while serving as President from 1789 to 1797, he signed laws that were both against and for slavery.
He was, indeed, a complicated figure — a man who soared above others during his time but was also very much a product of it. In his many speeches, addresses, and letters, he left us a wealth of quotes that offer insights into the famed leader, revealing his thoughts on everything from war to happiness, honor to the future of humanity.
Heroes have made poets, and poets heroes.
All see, and most admire, the glare which hovers round the external trappings of elevated office. To me there is nothing in it, beyond the lustre which may be reflected from its connection with a power of promoting human felicity.
It is infinitely better to have a few good men than many indifferent ones.
A slender acquaintance with the world must convince every man, that actions, not words, are the true criterion of the attachment of his friends.
I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is the best policy.
It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one.
For the sake of humanity it is devoutly to be wished, that the manly employment of agriculture and the humanizing benefits of commerce, would supersede the waste of war and the rage of conquest.
Happiness depends more upon the internal frame of a person's own mind than on the externals in the world.
We are either a united people, or we are not. If the former, let us, in all matters of general concern act as a Nation… If we are not, let us no longer act a farce by pretending to it.
Remember that it is the actions, and not the commission, that make the officer, and that there is more expected from him, than the title.
Liberty, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth.
If we desire to avoid insult, we must be able to repel it; if we desire to secure peace, one of the most powerful instruments of our rising prosperity, it must be known, that we are at all times ready for War.
I had always hoped that this land might become a safe and agreeable asylum to the virtuous and persecuted part of mankind, to whatever nation they might belong.
Observe good faith and justice towards all Nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all.
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