George Washington and a Certain Lady

George Washington truly loved his Martha.  He died at the age of 67 on December 14, 1799, and had he lived just a bit longer, he and Martha would have celebrated their 41st wedding anniversary the following January 6.  They were, all their almost 41 years together, quite devoted to each other.

That notwithstanding, there were several other women who played significant roles in George Washington’s life.

At a very young age, George Washington fell in love with his best friend and neighbor’s wife, Sally Fairfax.  Some poignant love letters from George Washington to Sally survive that time, but there is no evidence that this was anything other than an awkward young man expressing first time feelings to a lovely and sophisticated older woman.

George Washington, though incapable of making small talk, loved to have sprightly conversations with attractive, clever women, and indulged in this as often as he could.  It has even been said, and there is some evidence to that, that our first President was a bit of a flirt.

When George Washington had completed his first term of office, he sincerely did not want to serve a second term, and was determined to adhere to this decision.  That he changed his mind is due to the pleading of two people who were successful in dissuading him from taking this step, both using the same argument: that the nation would not continue to ‘hang together unless it could hang on him.’  The first of  these was Thomas Jefferson, to whom George Washington often listened, and the second was a woman named Eliza Powell, a prominent Philadelphia socialite who with her husband were great friends of both the Washingtons. She in particular became very friendly with General Washington, and he found that he benefited a great deal from the lively conversations he had with this highly intelligent woman.

He also loved to dance and was an excellent dancer.  As such, George Washington would do so with as many attractive women as often as he could; one evening he was observed dancing for four hours straight with several partners.  Clearly, George Washington was a great appreciator of women.

So, what would he have thought of Sarah Palin?

As the great visionary of the Founders, George Washington most likely would not be shocked at women participating at every level in politics and government in America, even though this was clearly not the practice in late 18th century America. It also goes without saying that he would be highly appreciative of how Sarah Palin looks; she certainly would have been chosen as a dance partner by the General.

George Washington was not a man of nuance — he preferred clarity, honesty and simplicity in all his dealings and used simply stated and strongly held principles, not only throughout his entire life, but also in the policies he espoused in leading his nation.  Obviously, he would admire the clear speaking and classic honesty of Governor Palin, something that was rare in a politician in 18th Century America, and even rarer today. What George Washington said he was going to do, he did.  What George Washington said he wasn’t going to do, didn’t get done.  Ditto Sarah Palin.

He also would have been comfortable with Governor Palin’s Christianity.  As a devout believer in what he often referred to as ‘Divine Providence,’ he would have agreed with her deeply held faith.  George Washington would also have admired her devotion to her family; though George Washington had no children of his own, his wife had two children and a number of grandchildren from her first marriage and he was a great family man who felt that devotion to family was an integral part of life.  He himself was very attached to a number of the large coterie of his nieces and nephews (he had 6 siblings, all of whom had children).   

Something that might have perplexed the general is that someone from the ‘lower orders’ would have achieved the level in political power that Sarah Palin has achieved, because in 18th century America, it was the case in large part that only landed gentry could reach that level. To his credit, again being the visionary that he was, George Washington recognized special ability in individuals no matter what their station; e.g., the fact that his two best generals during the Revolutionary Way, selected by Washington himself, were the bookseller Henry Knox and the farmer Nathaniel Greene.

What George Washington would not have liked is how Sarah Palin is being treated in the press.  First, he was always gallant with the ladies, and as was natural at that time, he felt that women should be protected.  He also loathed the practice, another that is worse now than in the 18th century, of newspapers attempting to destroy political opponents in print. George Washington always reacted badly to criticisms of himself in the press, in large part because they were mostly lies, a practice that is difficult to counter then, and even more so to this day.  As George Washington was a great admirer of courage in people, he certainly would have admired the bravery and steadfastness of Sarah Palin, especially in light of the ongoing onslaught of attacks against her that continue without surcease.

George Washington’s favorite sport was fox hunting, and he was superb at it. He was also an avid hunter, and would be highly appreciative of Governor Palin’s moose field-dressing skills.  Always a formal, thoughtful man, he was drawn to joyful people who expressed optimism, especially in light of the many trials in General Washington’s life.  As such, he would certainly have been drawn to Sarah Palin’s optimistic demeanor.  Governor Palin much more often refers to herself as a conservative rather than a Republican, and George Washington would have appreciated that, as well.  He detested the idea of political parties; he felt that if they became entrenched entities that it would be ruinous, yet another demonstration of what a remarkable visionary Washington was.

In short, George Washington would have been Sarah Palin’s biggest fan.

So, would George Washington be shocked by President Palin?  He certainly would be shocked at political power being wielded by a Nancy Pelosi, Barbara Boxer or a Hillary Clinton, for example, because of how ineffective and venal they are, but shocked by Sarah?

No, not at all.