Memorializing George Washington

Our precedential president's 281st birthday was today. Photo: Gilbert Stuart, 1796

OHATCHEE, Al., February 22, 2013 — There is much we can credit to George Washington, including the name of the newspaper you see in the url address of this page. When I flipped through my collection of Washington’s correspondence this week, it was a letter he wrote at the age of nine to his childhood friend, Richard Henry Lee (“Lighthorse Harry”), that caught my eye.

Dear Dickey:

I thank you very much for the pretty picture book you gave me. Sam asked me to show him the pictures and I showed him all the pictures in it; and I read to him how the lame elephant took care of the master’s little son. I can read three or four pages sometimes without missing a word. Ma says I may go to see you and stay all day with you next week if it be not rainy. She says I may ride my pony Hero if Uncle Sam will go with me and lead Hero. I have a little piece of poetry about the picture book you gave me, but I mustn’t tell you who wrote the poetry.

G.W.’s compliments to R.H.L.,

And likes his book full well,

Henceforth will count him his friend,

And hopes many happy days he may spend.

Your good friend

George Washington

How poignant this is in light of the fact that many years later, “Dickey” would deliever before Congress John Marshall’s official eulogy for Washington, which said of the first American president:

“First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen, he was second to none in humble and enduring scenes of private life. Pious, just, humane, temperate, and sincere; uniform dignified, and commanding; his example was as edifying to all around him as were the effects of that example lasting correct throughout, vice shuddered in his presence and virtue always felt his fostering hand. The purity of his private charter gave effulgence to his public virtues. Such was the man for whom our nation morns.”

Eight years ago my sister Rachel and I put together an audio presentation (rather childishly done) on Washington’s life just for the fun of it (this “Presidential Portraits Presentation” can be accessed here). One point we featured was Washington’s concern about the precedent of his administration.

“We are a young nation and have a character to establish,” Washington wrote in a letter to his brother, John Augustine. “It behoves us therefore to set out right, for first impressions will be lasting.”

If only Washington’s impression were longer lasting for American political leadership today!


Amanda Read is a political columnist for the Communities at The Washington Times. A professional writer and researcher, Amanda is also a Christian homeschool graduate, unconventional college student, military daughter, and eldest of the nine Read children at Fair Hills Farm. Find more of her work at

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Amanda Read

Amanda Read is a columnist for the Communities at The Washington Times. Trained as a historian, skilled as a writer, and aspiring to be a filmmaker, Amanda investigates the ideas behind contemporary culture and politics. A professional writer and researcher, she is also a Christian homeschool graduate, unconventional college graduate, military daughter, and eldest of the nine Read children at Fair Hills Farm. Find more of her work at

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