[guest post by JVW]
Today commemorates the 283rd anniversary of the birth of George Washington, the Father of Our Country. I’m old enough to remember the days when us schoolkids got both Washington’s Birthday and Lincoln’s Birthday off as holidays, before the two were combined into President’s Day in order to squeeze in a federal holiday for Martin Luther King in January.
To me, George Washington is the greatest American in our country’s history, and certainly one of the finest people who ever lived. There are any number of great biographies of Washington, but a short (126 page) volume by Paul Johnson as part of the Eminent Lives series from Harper Collins is highly recommended for a brief overview with all the key parts covered. My favorite part is in Johnson’s final valedictory on the great man’s life, relating a story about Washington’s post-Presidency years:
One of [Washington’s] later visitors, who spent a day at the house in the general’s company, was young Copley, son of the Anglo-American painter John Singleton Copley. . . . Copley was to become Lord Lyndhurst, three times Lord Chancellor of England, to sit in cabinet with Wellington and Peel; he was the close friend of Disraeli, knew Gladstone and Macaulay, Dickens, Thackeray, and Scott, and the young Tennyson. He met everyone of distinction in Europe, from Talleyrand to Goethe. Yet, when an old man and retired, he said that meeting Washington was the greatest privilege he had enjoyed and that the day at Mount Vernon was the most remarkable day of his entire life.
Happy birthday, sir.