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Postcard from the Past - Tribute Paid to Great Man

Written by Dick Perue

Last week it was noted what a great man George Washington was, how he served our country so well and when observance of his birthday was established. 

This week, we continue a tribute to our first president as reported in an editorial in the Feb. 12, 1920 issue of the local newspaper.

It was on Sept. 19, 1796 that Washington issued his farewell address to the American people. As Washington’s second term drew to a close the public once more turned to him with confidence and affection and would have had him take the presidency a third time, to keep the government steady in its new ways. But he would not have the hard office again. Then he issued his final address, which, he said, was “designed in a more special manner for the yeomanry of the country” and spoke the advice he hoped they might take to heart.

When the day came on which he should resign his office to John Adams, the great civilian who was to succeed him, there was a scene which left no one in doubt, not even Washington himself, what the people thought of the leader they had trusted these 20 years. A great crowd was assembled to see the second inauguration, but very few of the throng watched Adams. All eyes were bent upon that great figure in black velvet, with a light sword swung at his side. No one stirred until he had left the room, to follow and pay his respects to the new president.

Then they and all the crowd in the streets moved after George Washington, an immense company going as one man, “in total silence,” his escort all the way. He turned upon the threshold of the president’s lodgings and looked, as if for the last time, upon this multitude of nameless friends. No one ever saw him so moved. The tears rolled unchecked down his cheek, and when at last he went within a great smothered common voice went through the stirred throng, as if they sobbed to see their hero go from their side forever.

Washington as a Business Man

Washington was a man of extraordinary activity. It was his custom to rise at 4 o’clock, and he claimed that a great deal of his work was done while others slept. “My manner of living,” he wrote, “is plain, and I do not mean to be put out by it.”

It was said of him, “At the time of his marriage it is no great strain of metaphor to say that Washington had now his first chance to sit down since the days when he had poured over his school copybook.” 

After the war and his first term as president Washington found his estates run down and unprofitable, yet he so redeemed his fortunes by his application to his affairs and by good business judgment that he died the second richest man in America at that time. – Christian Herald