On this President’s Day, the nation honors two former presidents, Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, and while the story of Lincoln is truly inspirational and as close to the Biblical story of long-suffering Job from the Old Testament as you can get, too many little known facts about George Washington and the “Founding Fathers” paint a far less appealing story than most realize. The popular myth of a very honest and selfless leader and founder of this nation quickly fades against many actual facts about this first president who was far closer to some ruthless political boss or a political dictator than most realize.
The popular story of Washington is some man who stood up to the King of England when he wanted to collect taxes, but the reality was that Washington was perhaps the most wealthy man in the 13 colonies at the time, with an wealth estimated at close to half a billion dollars in land and property, besides being a slaveowner. With his immense wealth, there also went some pompous sense of power as well, and Washington decided for himself that why should the king collect taxes when I can collect taxes myself. I’m powerful enough to lead a revolt that will put me in charge of the country. I can recruit poor peasants to fight for me.
Washington soon brought together other wealthy property owners who appointed him general of the army, chaplain of that army, and eventually appointed him president in an election with no real opposition or political parties to challenge him. Further, future elections were only open to landowners, who were males, leaving those without property, females and slaves without a voice.
Although Washington had immense wealth, and he could have easily funded his revolutionary army himself that was doing his bidding to bring him into power, but instead asked a Jewish businessman friend, Haym Solomon for $20,000, which he raised to fund the battle at Yorktown. Washington also used this Jewish businessman to seek more financial aid, said to be up to $1 million from other wealthy European Jewish families such as the Rothschilds. But, Jewish historians will tell you that neither Washington nor his federal government ever paid back these loans that brought him into power. So much for that story about some guy so honest that “he could never tell a lie”.
And life was certainly hard for those early soldiers who had to fight on behalf of Washington and not merely because of a cold Winter as most historians will suggest. Washington used floggings as examples to intimidate the other soldiers into not using God’s name in vain, and other tough rules he established and ran his army like some despot. Washington used this phony veneer of piety to mask so many moral shortcomings associated with the “Founding Fathers”. Benjamin Franklin, for example used to publicly brag about all of the “strumpets” he would hire for sexual purposes. Using his wealth, Franklin would make regular use of prostitutes to entertain him sexually. And other prostitutes known as “camp followers” would show up to sexually service the officers and more wealthy of the revolutionary army, while the rank and file were threatened with floggings for minor shortcomings. It was sheer moral hypocrisy. Many of the other “Founding Fathers” had documented adulterous affairs, sometimes with slaves they owned, such as in the case of Thomas Jefferson and his slave Sally Hemmings. Of the original seven “Founding Fathers”, fully half had a mistress or some woman with whom they were having sex with outside of their marriage. So far DNA tests haven’t proved it, but some evidence suggests that Washington had a 15 year mulatto house slave called Venus, which is sure interesting for someone who had himself appointed the first chaplain of his army and was supposed to be the moral leader of this army. Other “Founding Fathers” like James Madison had no need for a mistress since he had a fair and beautiful wife, Dolly Madison, who was half his age to toy around with. Alexander Hamilton, at 34, was actually blackmailed by his mistress, Maria Reynolds 23, but his wife didn’t seem to openly object to his playing around and may have even given him approval to do such.
Interestingly, when Washington actually ran for a public office that his friends didn’t merely appoint him to, such as a successful election to the House Of Burgesses, Washington spent what would be the equivalent of $8,000 on booze to bribe voters to vote for him. That $8,000 equivalent is also nearly half of what Washington claimed he needed to fund his revolutionary army to give some example of the high level of corruption he was able to fund with his immense wealth. In 1758, this ranks as the first most notable example of corruption in American politics.
Washington was also once accused of embezzling war funds that were supposed to be used during the French and Indian War, but details of this scandal are rather scant, and likely Washington’s political power were such that he was quickly able to suppress this scandal.
Even as general of the army, Washington had a manipulative way of playing games with an expense account that the federal government gave him, billing everything as an “expense”. This gave him an income far greater than what his salary might have been. It was a clever money game of his to get more pay than what he could have normally earned.
George Washington, far from being the perfect picture of an honest leader who would never ever lie to anyone, was a hardcore political boss of the most ruthless nature. His philosophy was far closer to “I’ve seen my opportunities and took ’em” than most honest historians will ever want to ever admit.
Even THE SMITHSONIAN Magazine recognized Washington’s propensity towards bribery and other character flaws, although such realities aren’t taught in your average history lesson in schools.
Washington did help to found this country. And years of reforms improved both voting as well as ethics. Washington deserves credit as one of the founders of this great land. But, his own shortcomings put him well below Lincoln as a true man of excellent character. Washington is simply not comparable to Lincoln.