But for the faith and character of one man

But for the faith and character of one man

Happy New Year everyone!

To start this new year, here’s a story about George Washington, a corrupt Congress, and his selfless act that saved the newborn nation. The following is an excerpt but your should read it all.

It takes place just before Christmas, 1783. The Congress was universally reviled, the Continental Army had been dismissed and the soldiers had been left without their back pay, a Congressman who had opposed Washington at Valley Forge and was later forced to resign his commission as quartermaster general over an embezzlement scandal was engineering his revenge against his old commander, and Washington was being urged to throw out the corrupt government and assume power as a monarchical president.

Addressing this scandal-tarred enemy, Washington drew a speech from his coat pocket and unfolded it with trembling hands. “Mr. President,” he began in a low, strained voice. “The great events on which my resignation depended having at length taken place; I now have the honor of offering my sincere congratulations to Congress and of presenting myself before them to surrender into their hands the trust committed to me, and to claim the indulgence of retiring from the service of my country.”

Washington went on to express his gratitude for the support of “my countrymen” and the “army in general.” This reference to his soldiers ignited feelings so intense, he had to grip the speech with both hands to keep it steady. He continued: “I consider it an indispensable duty to close this last solemn act of my official life by commending the interests of our dearest country to the protection of Almighty God and those who have the superintendence of them [Congress] to his holy keeping.”

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 this faith he might never have been able to endure the frustrations and rage he had experienced in the previous eight months.

[…] Thomas Jefferson, author of the greatest of these declarations, witnessed this drama as a delegate from Virginia. Intuitively, he understood its historic dimension. “The moderation… . of a single character,” he later wrote, “probably prevented this revolution from being closed, as most others have been, by a subversion of that liberty it was intended to establish.”

Were it not for the selflessness and faith of George Washington, this great American experiment could have died stillborn as just another petty revolution that replaced a foreign-born tyrant with a native one. Shows what one man of faith can do.

The story also illustrates that, as with the history of the Church, we forget that we’ve had worse scandal and corruption and that our time has no monopoly on human sin and weakness. We can have hope that such things can be cleaned up in the future, if not in our lives, then in those of our descendants. For a time anyway.

Written by
Domenico Bettinelli