The Father of our Country
His dad died when he was just eleven years old, which meant there wasn’t enough money to send him off for a proper education. Lawrence, his older half brother of 14 years, became a father figure to him.
When he visited Lawrence, he was stirred by the people he would meet there–people of influence, adults who were well-read and thoughtful, men who were leaders. The young boy determined that he would become one of them.
He worked hard to become a man of character, of etiquette, and of style. He also sought to acquire wealth, and by age 20 he owned 2500 acres of Virginia’s frontier land.
But that same year his older brother Lawrence died. He lost yet another 'father'.
The next year he turned to the military. Through the intervention of influential friends, he was granted the command of a military district in Virginia, even though he had zero experience.
He became a scout and spied on the French, while also becoming an emissary to the Chief of the Seneca. He encountered situations where he faced great odds, and made significant blunders. Despite some poor decision making, his “virtues stood out amid the temporary wreckage of his reputation.”
Now just 22 years old, he left the military, somewhat of a failure.
Just a few months later he was called back to join General Braddock on a quest to take a fort from the French. It was on their way that they became surrounded by the French and Indians, ambushed, and took heavy casualties and injuries. But the young man proved himself to have legendary courage. History records that “Washington alone of Braddock’s aides emerged unscathed, though his hat and coat were riddled with bullet holes and two horses were shot from beneath him. He never ran. He stood and fought with great valor.”
Not long after, he married and became a farmer. He developed the home they lived in, and helped father his wife’s two children from her previous marriage, but was never to procreate any biological children of his own. He would never get to father his own children.
He was a farmer for almost 20 year before the military called again. A war was brewing.
As the Second Continental Congress met, they realized that the colonies could not fight the force of England independently, but needed to work together. They formed a single, national army. But they needed someone to lead it.
Now, at 43 years old, our man answered the call.
With little experience, leading a force of men with similar experience, he knew that victory would take a miracle. Over the next 6 years he would deal with endless difficulties, troop shortages, betrayal, assassination attempts, terrible weather and food conditions, and more.
As the war dragged on there were many dark times. In the midst of one of these periods, his friend Brig. Gen. Henry Knox wrote to lift his spirits: “The people of America look up to you as their Father and into your hands they intrust their all full confident of every exertion on your part for their security and happiness.”
The fatherless, and childless, leader, was fathering not only his men, but the young country.
Amazingly he was able to shape up a ragtag group of underfed, underpaid and underarmed men into the fighting force that would defeat the most powerful military force the planet had seen.
A deeply faithful man, he was known to rely on that faith to make decisions throughout his life. He knew God had a purpose for him, and out of that confidence he fought bravely and gave generously.
None of these were even his greatest accomplishments.
After the war, many wanted to make him King. He had earned it. It was widely expected that he would take what he thought belonged to him, to stage a coup and wrestle power and control from the Congress, and become the military ruler of the country.
The liberty of millions hung in the balance, dependent on the character of one man.
And he would have none of it.
He set down his position of power, and maintained his strength. He was the first major military leader in the history of the world to win a war and then voluntarily step down. He decided to go home and continue farming. King George of England heard of it and declared him to be “the greatest man in the world.”
But yet again, he was summoned to lead. He was pulled from his home and appointed as the first leader of his kind. He was not only the first, but he essentially invented it. Where there was not a precedent for a president, he determined everything, from how he should be addressed to how to make appointments to positions, etc. He set the tone for what would be adopted by virtually every president who would come after him.
One of those great and under rated decisions was to only serve two four-year terms–another humble and selfless decision that would have ramifications for the nation's future.
In his first inaugural address, he said, “Divine Providence hath not seen fit that my blood should be transmitted or my name perpetuated by the endearing, though sometimes seducing, channel of immediate offspring. I have no child for whom I could wish to make a provision — no family to build in greatness upon my country’s ruins.”
In other words, there would be no American royal dynasty.
Instead, as New York’s Governor Morris said in eulogizing him: “Americans! He had no child BUT YOU and HE WAS ALL YOUR OWN.”
He was not a perfect man. He made mistakes. While he oversaw the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law, he also wrote his personal will such that upon his death all of those who worked on his property would be freed, educated, and taken care of for the remainder of their lives.
We don’t need to worship him. But we can appreciate that this man who had lost his father at a young age, and struggled with approval from authority figures long into his adult life, and had no children of his own, became the fathering leader of thousands of fighting men, and the patriarch of our country.
In Restoration Project, we believe that all men are called to be fathers, just as George Washington did; to offer their presence, strength, and kindness on behalf of others, children or no children.
And on this day in particular, Independence Day, we can appreciate our first president as one of the first fathers of our nation.
What fathers in your life, living or no longer, can you appreciate?
In what ways are you stepping into fatherhood in your own community, even if you don’t have children?
Cody Buriff, Director of Resource Initiatives
PS: To read more, I encourage you to read the first chapter of “7 Men” by Eric Metaxas, which was the primary source material for this story.