George Washington’s Single Act Saved the US

Today’s WSJ came with a op-ed piece by Thomas Fleming, an excerpt from his new book called “The Perils of Peace: America’s Struggle for Survival After Yorktown,” in which the author credits George Washington for a single act that he says saved the US.

It was difficult time, at Christmas 1783. The country had been at peace a short while but there were angry officers and soldiers who had been sent home, unpaid, after the war. Congress would not agree to pay them despite the Great General’s pleading, and a smear campaign had been launched, making the military out to be greedy and demanding too much.

Washington made his way down to address a small gathering of congressman, who had assembled in Annapolis, to make his official resignation from duty to the new republic. He spoke of his great gratitude for these man who had won the war and then paused.

“For a long moment, Washington could not say another word. Tears streamed down his cheeks. The words touched a vein of religious faith in his inmost soul, born of battlefield experiences, that had convinced him of the existence of a caring God who had protected him and his country again and again during the war. Without his faith he might never have been able to endure the frustrations and rage he had experienced in the previous eight months.”

At that moment, many men would have grabbed the reins of power and taken advantage of the turmoil, and proclaimed themselves King, as many had wanted and asked Washington to do. But in this moment, this ‘the most important moment in American history,’ says Fleming, instead, the great man handed the resignation document to the congressman and stepped down. He renounced power during this perilous time, and prevented this revolution from being closed, as most others have been, by a subversion of liberty as it was intended to establish,” said Jefferson.
Because of this, in Europe Washington’s resignation restored America’s battered prestige, and it earned ‘the astonishment and admiration of this part of the world.” He left that night and the following evening–Christmas Eve, he greeted Martha and two grandchildren at the door of Mt. Vernon.