On this date in History: In 1782, there was some chaos in the new nation. There was a shortage of funds to pay foreign debts and Congress was arguing about what to do. Beyond that, while the British had surrendered at Yorktown, there was no peace treaty with the mother country and many thousands of Royal troops remained in the colonies. Skirmishes and small battles continued on part of the frontier. In general, the major fighting for the colonies was over but true independence would not come until November 1783 with the signing of the Treaty of Paris.
Now, most of leaders in the colonial independence movement were from the wealthy classes and were, for lack of a better word, the elites. Many of the founders were well educated in a classical sense and were some of the wealthiest members of society. John Hancock was a merchant who was recognized by many historians as the richest of all those in America at the time. General George Washington was not rolling in cash but the value of his land holdings put his net worth near the top of the list. Thomas Jefferson enjoyed some financial success but his business decisions were not always sound. But, his knowledge of historical ideas and his ability to master the language gave him a tremendous ability to express ideas and ideals. John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Jefferson were charged with writing an independence declaration. Adams and Franklin pushed Jefferson to actually pen the document because they acknowledged his greater written skills. The ideals put forth on the Declaration of Independence were not new ideas as they had been espoused in the past, most notably by John Locke. But, it was the way that Jefferson expressd those ideals that makes the document so remarkable. Jefferson wrote that “Bacon, Locke and Newton … I consider them as the three greatest men that have ever lived, without any exception, and as having laid the foundation of those superstructures which have been raised in the Physical and Moral sciences.”
George Washington considered himself a planter much along the lines of the Roman tradition of Cincinnatus. Early in the Roman empire, the Senate ruled Rome. In a time of war, land holders were called to come and form an army to defend the empire. In such a time of strife, a dictator was appointed and given temporary powers to rule until the end of the conflict. Cincinnatus was called to duty in 458 BC and successfully led the defense of Rome. When the conflict was over, he resigned his position and returned to his farm. This was the Roman tradition until around the time of Julius Caesar, who never relinquished the lucrative dictator position. When several senators got together and murdered him, assassination was introduced into the world of politics. When Augustus came to power, he remained as dictator but returned much of the rule of Rome to the Senate in the tradition of Cincinnatus while he controled the army on the frontier of the empire. Augustus preferred to be called “principate” or “first citizen” rather than Caesar. While Jefferson was greatly influenced by Locke, Washington’s demeanor was patterned after Cincinnatus.
In the atmosphere of an unsettled and uncertain condition that prevailed in the colonies between Yorktown in October 1781 and the Treaty of Paris in 1783, a proposal arose from officers in the army to settle the situation by proclaiming George Washington as King George I. He had the ability to seize absolute power since he was the well respected leader of the entire Continental Army. And many colonists put their Faith in his hands. Yet, On This Date in 1782, General George Washington refused to become king when he quickly dispatched such notions, writing from his headquarters in Newburgh, NY that no such occurrence in the war gave him ”…more painful sensations…” than such talk. He said that viewed such expressions with “abhorrence and reprehend with severity.” The officer who had written the proposal to the general was admonished when Washington concluded, “if you have any regard for your country, concern for yourself or posterity, or respect for me, to banish these thoughts from your mind and never communicate, as from yourself, or anyone else, a sentiment of the like nature. ” The word of General Washington was formidable, thus saving the Democracy before it even really got started. The Constitution was adopted in 1787 and the General became the first President in 1789. Eight years later, for a second time, General Washington voluntarily gave up power when he refused to be nominated for a third term even though he had been elected twice as President by a unanimous vote of the electoral college. Not once, but twice, did General Washington refuse the temptation of absolute power. In the tradition of Cincinnatus, he returned to his farm where he died in 1799.
While we do not refer to Washington as “first citizen” like Caesar Augustus, he is commonly referred to as the “Father of the Country.” A 1788 settlement along the Ohio River became a village in 1802 and took the name of Cincinnati in honor of George Washington, though some accounts say that the moniker was derived from The Society of the Cincinnati . Nevertheless, the Society of the Cincinnati also was formed by Revolutionary War soldiers who wished to promote the virtues of Cincinnatus. By extension, those were also the virtues espoused by General Washington who served as the first President General of the Society of Cincinnatus. And the nation has largely followed the tradition of Cincinnatus as demonstrated by Washington. The United States has been involved in a number of armed conflicts but, more often than not, does not control territories following the end of hostilities. More to the point, politicians followed the tradition of Washington and limited themselves to just two terms in office, until Franklin D. Roosevelt broke the tradition by being elected to four consecutive terms in office. Shortly thereafter, the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution was ratified making the tradition of Washington the law of the land: no one can serve for more than two terms as President of the United States.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD
Many of us have our own form of Cincinnatus or George Washington who has influenced their life. On this date a long long time ago, Robert B. Symon, Sr. was introduced to the world. And the world has been a better place for it. I’m hoping to one day live up to the old man but I haven’t quite gotten there. When I was a kid and he helped coach my football or baseball teams. the other guys on the team always told me that my dad was their favorite coach. They said he was nice. Today, I realize that is true. I think we all wish that we could be a person whom about people would say, “you know, I’m a better person for having known him” or “I’m just a little happier for having known him.” My dad is one of the few people I know in life that I think that is the case. Come to think of it, Snow White is too. One would think that if I am surrounded and influenced by such people, some of it would rub off on me. Well, there’s always tomorrow.
Weather Bottom Line: We had a storm that produced some funnel clouds and excitement on Friday evening. There were also some wind damage reported in a few spots in Southern Indiana and large hail reports in Crawford, Franklin and Anderson counties in Indiana and Kentucky. Rainfall totals were varied with some places getting around a half inch of rain while others about 3 times that in a short period of time. It’s all over with now and look for temperatures in the mid to perhaps upper 80’s for the week ahead with rain chances being slim and none.