WASHINGTON -- New Year's Day in Washington dawned gray and wet -- and cold. It was a perfect day for sightseeing, so my wife and I decided to sightsee. We went to Mount Vernon, George Washington's home -- named, incidentally, after a British admiral, Adm. Edward Vernon, by George's elder half brother. Upon inheriting the mansion, George never saw any reason to change the name, despite the British army's many acts of rudeness to him. George was a big enough guy not to bear a grudge.
We arrived just as the estate opened, at 9 a.m., and we were about the only tourists in the place for the first hour. The very agreeable woman who sold us our tickets, noting our enthusiasm, inquired as to where we came from. "Twelve miles up the road," said my wife. "We don't get out much." Actually, we do, but not to sightsee. We both have been reading a lot about George Washington, so we visited Mount Vernon for the first time in years. Our reasoning is that with the tea party's arrival in Washington, we had best familiarize ourselves with the Founding Fathers, a goodly number of whom lived in Virginia. We started with George. Marx is out.
George Washington was a man of immense proportions. He was a soldier while still in his teens. Then a planter, and a very successful planter at that. Then, in middle years, he was a soldier again, the commander in chief of the Continental Army, who set a tone for war and peace. He was courageous, occasionally brilliant, and endured setbacks and despair. He led the British on a wild chase, ending in their defeat at Yorktown. He believed in character and fair play, and when he captured a Hessian army, he treated it humanely, despite its barbaric treatment of his troops in New York. There, a ragtag assortment of patriot soldiers, mainly very young or very old, were bayoneted by the Hessians, some impaled against tree trunks after surrendering.