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On Eminence, Experience, And George Washington

17 February 2014 @ 19:35

On this all-inclusive ‘holiday’, known dully as ‘President’s Day’, where we without distinction honor all Presidents of The United States — be they good or great or bad or criminals — it might do us some good to reject such vapid attempts as Leveling and consider what makes someone qualified to be an American leader.

Edmund Burke believed that anyone could rise to leadership…

…You do not imagine that I wish to confine power, authority, and distinction to blood and names and titles. No, Sir. There is no qualification for government but virtue and wisdom, actual or presumptive. Wherever they are actually found, they have, in whatever state, condition, profession, or trade, the passport of Heaven to human place and honor….

…but he also believed such a person must have met some challenge or challenges and showed his worthiness:

Everything ought to be open, —but not indifferently to every man. …I do not hesitate to say that the road to eminence and power, from obscure condition, ought not to be made too easy, nor a thing too much of course. If rare merit be the rarest of all rare things, it ought to pass through some sort of probation. The temple of honor ought to be seated on an eminence. If it be opened through virtue, let it be remembered, too, that virtue is never tried but by some difficulty and some struggle.  [both quotes from Reflections On The Revolution In France]


Rational and experienced men tolerably well know, and have always known, how to distinguish between true and false liberty, and between the genuine adherence and the false pretense to what is true. But none, except those who are profoundly studied, can comprehend the elaborate contrivance of a fabric fitted to unite private and public liberty with public force, with order, with peace, with justice, and, above all, with the institutions formed for bestowing permanence and stability, through ages, upon this invaluable whole. [from Appeal From The New To The Old Whigs]

As Yuval Levin comments in his book, The Great Debate:

Man have these abilities in differing degrees not because some are born more prudent than others but because prudence is a function of experience and education. [Page 85]

Experience and education are achieved by those possessing a sense of duty to God to preserve the sacred gifts of freedom and liberty He has gifted to us.  One must always be engaged in what Mr. Burke calls ‘profound study’ —  be it analyzing one’s failures or successes or incomplete victories, or by vigorously pursuing new knowledge of the World and of Human Nature.  In either case, one must find within oneself the ability to detachedly and without the presence of ego critique one’s actions and gained knowledge honestly and forthrightly.

Such a man was George Washington.

And for many, many years we honored him on his birthday to the exclusion of all the other Great Men of American History.

But, the Levelers, in their Egalitarian and Collectivist Frenzy, could not tolerate the idea that one man was deserving of the label ‘Indispensable’, so they fundamentally transformed celebration of George Washington into a day honoring all Presidents, no matter who they were.  Thus, the Left succeeded in dragging Mr. Washington down to the level of our worst President — for that is what Egalitarianism does in all cases.

That we have a ‘President’s Day’ is offensive to anyone who aspires to be Virtuous.

That we have meekly accepted and tolerated it’s existence is a Tragedy.

It is also another marker of The Present Crisis.

  1. M. Thompson permalink
    18 February 2014 @ 00:30 00:30

    Mr. Washington gave us a great gift in what the leader of a Republic ought to do, and anyone who resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. is but a placeholder for the greatest man of his age.

    Some of his successors have kept the laurels of the office, and others have merely held a place, and a few have blackened the office. Mr. Washington was our Publicola, while it seems that Mr. Reagan was our Cicero.

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