Thinking About George Washington On Independence Day

The History of the Maryland State HouseSince the celebration of the founding of our Country takes place on Independence Day I sometimes feel the focus on the Declaration of Independence causes us to neglect many other great stories of the Revolutionary War.  What is your favorite story of the Revolutionary War?Earlier this week, after a stop in the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County, I had some time to take a walk around State Circle and the Maryland State Capital Building.  With Independence Day approaching, and perhaps because of a book I am reading that Tucker Clagett gave me containing the Letters of Washington, I couldn’t help but think about the fact that this was the building where at the end of Revolution Washington came and gave up control of the army and resigned his commission as Commander and Chief of the Continental Army.  Having grown up in Annapolis this has always been one of my favorite stories of the Revolution.  I believe it is almost impossible to overstate how important the steps that Washington took were to establishing the tradition in our Country that the military is controlled by the civilian government, and how important this tradition is to the stability of our Country.  
With so much focus on the Declaration of Independence and the beginning of the Revolutionary War I feel we often forget what a remarkable act it was for Washington to take this step.  Think of how many revolutions ended with the military leader installing themselves as dictator.  With the troops and officers upset about not being paid it would not have taken much to get them to overthrow the Continental Congress.  In fact Washington, before he resigned as Commander and Chief of the Continental Army had to act to quell a plan by some officers who were planning such a coup.  
The Maryland State HouseWhen being told that Washington was going to resign his command King George is reported to have said “If he does that he will be the greatest man in the world.”   It is not hard to imagine that if if many of the other ambitious leaders of the Revolution had similar power they may have convinced themselves that they needed to take power to protect the new country.  But Washington got on his horse and road off to Mount Vernon hoping to retire from public life.  
This act reminded many of the figure from Roman history Cincinnatius who the Roman Senate gave dictatorial power at a time when Rome was threatened by invaders.  After the battle was won Cincinnatius resigned his powers and returned to his farm.  I suppose I have always liked this story because my mother was from Ohio and I grew up routing for the Cincinnati Reds with my Grandmother.  When the veterans of the Revolutionary War formed a society the named it the Society of Cincinnati.  When the group elected Washington as President of the organization he was going to resign unless the provision to make the organization hereditary were removed.  
This is not to say that the Declaration of Independence is not a remarkable document, with many amazing stories surrounding it.  And it is certainly worth a read.  In fact I still try make my college age daughters and teenage son listen to at least first few, and last few paragraphs each year.  But also take some time to remember that the struggle for Independence lasted years and started before the Declaration, and was not over until years after we declared our independence.

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