Rich Lowry

When at the end of the war, a colonel sent Washington a letter suggesting he become king, Washington wrote back a stern rebuke. The brilliant Washington biographer Richard Brookhiser -- whose latest book is "George Washington on Leadership" -- notes that Washington asked for written confirmation from his aides that his reply had been sent, the only time he made such a request during the war.

Of course, when the war ended, he resigned his command and returned to Mount Vernon. Upon hearing the news, an astonished King George III said, "If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world." Before he did, Washington had a last instance of drama with his Army. Camped in Newburgh, N.Y., at the end of the war in 1783, the Army grew restive because Congress was tardy in paying it. Insurrection was in the air.

In a tense meeting with his officers, Washington told them that in rejecting rebellion, "You will give one more distinguished proof of unexampled patriotism and patient virtue, rising superior to the pressure of the most complicated sufferings; And you will, by the dignity of your Conduct, afford occasion of Posterity to say, when speaking of the glorious example you have exhibited to Mankind, 'had this day been wanting, the World had never seen the last stage of perfection to which human nature is capable of attaining.'"

The day wasn't wanting, nor were the men in arms who vindicated the Declaration.

Rich Lowry

Rich Lowry is author of Legacy: Paying the Price for the Clinton Years .
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