Personal opinion based ranking (1 meaning burn the man, 5 being complete indifference, 10 being still awful but could be a lot worse):
5, I would be lying if I said I had many opinions on Washington. I’m not a fan of him as a person, I would not like to know him, and his politics were fine about 42% of the time which isn’t as bad as it could be. He just isn’t all that interesting to me.
Background, context, and commentary:
We all know him, the first president of the United States, the one that people praise as the best president for some reason. I’m not going to say that the man didn’t make any good points—he is the one who warned us of the two-party system after all—but to consider him the best president is a bit of a stretch. He set the stage for everything America came to be. Whether that is good or bad is questionable, and that is a question I will leave up to you to ponder.
People tend to like him because he is historically ambitious and humble. They call him ambitious because he was the first president, he was a general in the military, people loved him. They call him humble because he didn’t actually want to become president, he never did, yet they still voted him in unanimously. This, however, can really only be taken one way: the man owned slaves. You can make the argument that “everyone had slaves back then,” but the argument has no real logic behind it. By understanding that owning slaves was a generally common thing at the time, no one is saying that this should be disregarded entirely. Owning slaves still makes him a bad person, one of many bad people.
Five interesting facts about George Washington:
1. Contrary to popular belief, his teeth were not made of wood. This isn’t a great one to start off with, and if you have a weak stomach or any sense of empathy at all, you may want to look past it. His dentures that he acquired after absolutely ruining his teeth trying to crack open walnuts with them (please don’t try this at home) were made out of surviving pieces of his own teeth, ivory, and teeth taken from his slaves. Yes, you read that correctly, that’s how despicable our first president was. I don’t feel like any more explanation is needed for this one.
2. He dropped out of school when he was eleven. Although considered one of the smarter people in politics at the time, he wasn’t nearly as educated as other politicians. He dropped out because he had to run the tobacco farm he grew up on after his father passed away and his siblings left him to do all of it. Over time he became a good farmer and was running the place sufficiently by his mid-teens and did so until he joined the military.
3. He didn’t have any children of his ownIt shocks a great many people that Washington never had any children. Family life and carrying your bloodline on through future generations was very important at that time, but nevertheless, he didn’t have any biological kids. He did, however, help raise several children from his wife’s family. Some were children from Martha Washington's past marriage, then some of her grandchildren after her son died years in the future. It is unknown if there was a reason why he didn’t have children of his own or if it upset him at all, but it is inferred that he simply was not able to so he took on Martha’s children to make up for that.
4. His position on owning slaves was a bit confusing As we all know, Washington owned slaves and had for the majority of his life. Around the time of the Revolutionary War, he began to dislike the idea of slavery but didn’t make any moves to do anything about it. He continued with this mindset until his death when he “freed” his slaves in his will. He was praised for this quite a bit, but it should be noted that he hadn’t actually intended to free them completely, just in title.
5. He had several near-death experiences but ended up dying of a coldThere are several stories of Washington being in situations he definitely shouldn’t have made it out of. He even survived tuberculosis and malaria, but it was a simple throat infection that could easily be cured nowadays that ended up killing him. Granted, the fact that he was much older and weaker at the time of his death should be taken into account, but it is interesting to think about nevertheless.
Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed reading about how screwed up our history is and please join me next week to do the same with our next president, John Adams. If I made any errors or there is something I missed please let me know. I have far too much presidential knowledge in my head so everything that you read was information that I already had floating around.
Madelyn Rogers is a contributor to The Weekly Cad.