Was the first President the best President?
Steven Hayward points to this book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Presidents: From Wilson to Obama, which points out that,
Americans in 1787 knew they could count on the “moderation and virtue” of this one man enough to entrust him with this brand new and undefined office. Washington knew his decisions and actions would be crucial to whether the office—and the Constitution—would succeed for the ages. “Few who are not philosophical spectators,” he wrote, “can realize the difficult and delicate part which a man in my situation has to act. . . In our progress toward political happiness my station is new; and, if I may use the expression, I walk on untrodden ground. There is scarcely any part of my conduct which may not hereafter be drawn into precedent.
David Azerrad writes about Washington, the Indispensable Man of the Revolution
As a President who took his bearings from the Constitution, Washington devoted considerable attention to foreign policy. Our first President sought to establish an energetic and independent foreign policy. He believed America needed a strong military so that it could “choose peace or war, as our interest guided by justice shall Counsel.” His Farewell Address remains the preeminent statement of purpose for American foreign policy.
No survey of Washington’s legacy would be complete without acknowledging his profound commitment to religious liberty. Many today seem to have lost sight of the crucial distinction he drew between mere toleration and true religious liberty. As he explained in the memorable letter to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport:
All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights.
On this day, as we celebrate our greatest President (his actual birthday is on Wednesday), let us remember why he–and not Polk or, heaven forbid, Wilson–deserves a national holiday.
Thank you, George Washington!