If it were true, snorted the still smug monarch, "Then Washington is the greatest man in the world."
And it was true.
George Washington had just led the rag-tag American army to victory over Great Britain, then the most powerful nation and army on the globe. But it was what Washington did after America's victory that prompted King George III's sarcastic declaration.
That was the news King George couldn't bring himself to believe. What man would win a revolution and then, with an entire nation his for the taking, refuse to grab that power, the king's crown?
After leading us to victory, some American military leaders wanted to make Washington king of the new nation. But Washington quickly squelched these efforts by immediately resigning his commission as the commander of the army and returning to his farm. Actions speak louder than words. There would be no king, said the man who could have been king.
Washington showed enormous character in commanding the military forces, yet it was the character he showed in the political arena that was most unique. It engendered admiration and respect from people throughout America and the world.
For instance, the great Napoleon was seen as "no Washington." Taking power after the French Revolution, Napoleon became emperor and spewed death across Europe. On his deathbed, he lashed out at his critics, bemoaning that they wanted him to be "another Washington." No doubt.
Certainly, Washington's reputation was built on more than one event. In the French and Indian Wars, he commanded the Virginia Regiment. In one battle at Fort Duquesne, he had two horses shot out from under him and still climbed aboard a third and continued the battle. Years later, again at Fort Duquesne, a battle erupted mistakenly between two contingents of the Virginia Regiment. When Washington saw this deadly mistake he rode between the lines of soldiers who were firing at each other to stop them. Amazingly, Washington was not shot, though 14 soldiers died in the fracas. Washington's bravery was never forgotten.
During the Revolutionary War, it was amazing that Washington could even keep the army together. Always low on provisions, a less respected figure would have seen far greater desertion and morale problems. And, too, Washington's stature helped him get more support out of Congress than another might have.
But when Congress couldn't provide Washington with what he needed to feed and clothe his army, they told him his army could "commandeer" food and supplies from those they passed throughout the countryside. Washington's good judgment and character made him refuse to institute such a program.