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Chapter Twenty-Five. George Washington and Republican Government: The Political Thought of George Washington

Nicholas P. Cole


Subject History » Political History

Place Americas » Northern America

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1700-1799

Key-Topics political theory

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781444331035.2012.00027.x


Extract

Unlike many of the famous politicians of his generation, Washington is not remembered as a political philosopher and his political thought is seldom discussed. He had the distinction of being the first President of the United States under the 1787 Constitution, yet played a largely passive role in its creation and wrote relatively little during the process of ratification. At least one detailed analysis of his Presidency began by noting that his most significant contribution was “his endowment of the office with that vital if elusive” symbolic and ritualistic quality ( McDonald (1974) ix). He set many precedents, but the political philosophy that governed his Presidency is often understood as the work of the members of his cabinet. It is futile to search Washington's writings for a detailed discussion of political science: the construction of the machinery of government that would sustain America's republic he left to others. Yet he shared with his generation a sense that providing strong foundations to America's system of government was very important indeed, and at times shared a pessimism about the prospects for the future. As this essay demonstrates, Washington did write about his vision for the Republic, but it was something he articulated not in terms of the system of government – he took some form of republican government for granted – but rather in terms of his hopes for ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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