George Washington


George Washington Quotes, Charles Willson Peale 1772

By: Charles Willson Peale 1772

 

“First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”

– Henry Lee

“Let him who looks for a monument to Washington look around the United States. Your freedom, your independence, your national power, your prosperity, and your prodigious growth are a monument to him.”

– Lajos Kossuth

George Washington Quotes about Character & Virtue


“Nothing is a greater stranger to my breast, or a sin that my soul more abhors, than that black and detestable one, ingratitude.”

– George Washington, as quoted in a Letter to Governor Dinwiddie (29 May 1754)


“Discipline is the soul of an army. It makes small numbers formidable; procures success to the weak, and esteem to all.”

– George Washington, as quoted in a Letter of Instructions to the Captains of the Virginia Regiments (29 July 1759)


“Unhappy it is though to reflect, that a Brother’s Sword has been sheathed in a Brother’s breast, and that, the once happy and peaceful plains of America are either to be drenched with Blood, or Inhabited by Slaves. Sad alternative! But can a virtuous Man hesitate in his choice?”

– George Washington, as quoted in a Letter to Mr. George William Fairfax (31 May 1775) George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress.


“It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one.”

– George Washington, as quoted in a Letter to his niece, Harriet Washington


“Few men have virtue to withstand the highest bidder.”

– George Washington, as quoted in a Letter to Major-General Robert Howe (17 August 1779)


“Associate yourself with Men of good Quality if you Esteem your own Reputation; for ’tis better to be alone than in bad Company.”

This is from a set of maxims which Washington copied out in his own hand as a school-boy: “Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation” Rule # 56 written out by Washington ca. 1744

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George Washington Quotes about Death

George Washington Quotes about Death, Charles Willson Peale

By: Charles Willson Peale

“I die hard but am not afraid to go. I believed from my first attack that I should not survive it — my breath cannot last long.”

The first sentence here is sometimes presented as being his last statement before dying, but they are reported as part of the fuller statement, and as being said in the afternoon prior to his death in Life of Washington (1859) by Washington Irving, and his actual last words are stated to have been those reported by Tobias


“I had rather be in my grave than in my present situation, I had rather be on my farm than be emperor of the world; and yet they charge me with wanting to be a king.”

– George Washington, Response to newspaper criticisms of his presidency, as quoted in The Alumni Register of the University of Pennsylvania (1925)


“I am just going. Have me decently buried; and do not let my body be put into the Vault in less than three days after I am dead.” I bowed assent, for I could not speak. He then looked at me again and said, “Do you understand me? I replied “Yes.” “Tis well” said he.

– George Washington, Last Words

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George Washington Quotes about Destiny & Faith


“There is a Destiny which has the control of our actions, not to be resisted by the strongest efforts of Human Nature.”

– George Washington, as quoted in a Letter to Mrs. George William Fairfax (12 September 1758).

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George Washington Quotes about Friendship


“A slender acquaintance with the world must convince every man, that actions, not words, are the true criterion of the attachment of his friends, and that the most liberal professions of good will are very far from being the surest marks of it. I should be happy that my own experience had afforded fewer examples of the little dependence to be placed upon them.”

– George Washington, as quoted in a Letter to Major-General John Sullivan (15 December 1779), published in The Writings of George Washington (1890) by Worthington Chauncey Ford


“It is infinitely better to have a few good men than many indifferent ones.”

– George Washington, as quoted in a Letter to James McHenry (10 August 1798).


“Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence; true friendship is a plant of slow growth, and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity before it is entitled to the appellation.”

– George Washington, as quoted in a Letter to Bushrod Washington (15 January 1783).

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George Washington Quotes about Foreign Policy


“There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation.”

– George Washington


“Nothing is more essential, than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular Nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The Nation, which indulges towards another an habitual hatred, or an habitual fondness, is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests.”

– George Washington


‘Tis our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world; so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it; for let me not be understood as capable of patronizing infidelity to existing engagements. I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy. I repeat it, therefore, let those engagements be observed in their genuine sense. But, in my opinion, it is unnecessary and would be unwise to extend them.”

– George Washington


“The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is, in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connexion as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop.”

– George Washington

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George Washington Quotes about Leadership

George Washington Quotes about Leadership

By: Gilbert Charles Stuart

“There is nothing that gives a man consequence, and renders him fit for command, like a support that renders him independent of everybody but the State he serves.”

– George Washington, as quoted in a Letter to the president of Congress, Heights of Harlem (24 September 1776)


“But lest some unlucky event should happen unfavorable to my reputation, I beg it may be remembered by every gentleman in the room that I this day declare with the utmost sincerity, I do not think myself equal to the command I am honored with.”

Washington’s formal acceptance of command of the Army (16 June 1775), quoted in The Writings of George Washington : Life of Washington (1837) edited by Jared Sparks


“Though, in reviewing the incidents of my administration, I am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors. Whatever they may be, I fervently beseech the Almighty to avert or mitigate the evils to which they may tend. I shall also carry with me the hope, that my Country will never cease to view them with indulgence; and that, after forty-five years of my life dedicated to its service with an upright zeal, the faults of incompetent abilities will be consigned to oblivion, as myself must soon be to the mansions of rest.”

– George Washington

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George Washington Quotes about Life


“My manner of living is plain. I do not mean to be put out of it. A glass of wine and a bit of mutton are always ready; and such as will be content to partake of them are always welcome. Those, who expect more, will be disappointed, but no change will be effected by it.”

– George Washington, as quoted in a Letter to George William Fairfax (25 June 1786)

 


“I am become a private citizen on the banks of the Potomac, and under the shadow of my own Vine and my own Fig-tree, free from the bustle of a camp and the busy scenes of public life, I am solacing myself with those tranquil enjoyments, of which the Soldier who is ever in pursuit of fame, the Statesman whose watchful days and sleepless nights are spent in devising schemes to promote the welfare of his own, perhaps the ruin of other countries, as if this globe was insufficient for us all, and the Courtier who is always watching the countenance of his Prince, in hopes of catching a gracious smile, can have very little conception. I am not only retired from all public employments, but I am retiring within myself; and shall be able to view the solitary walk, and tread the paths of private life with heartfelt satisfaction. Envious of none, I am determined to be pleased with all; and this my dear friend, being the order for my march, I will move gently down the stream of life, until I sleep with my Fathers.”

– George Washington, as quoted in a Letter to Gilbert du Motier

 


“Unwilling am I, in the evening of a life nearly consumed in public cares, to quit a peaceful abode for an Ocean of difficulties…”

– George Washington

 


“Happiness and moral duty are inseparably connected.”

– George Washington, as quoted in a Letter, dated August 19th, 1789, To the Bishops, Clergy,

 


“Rise early, that by habit it may become familiar, agreeable, healthy, and profitable. It may, for a while, be irksome to do this, but that will wear off; and the practice will produce a rich harvest forever thereafter; whether in public or private walks of life.”

– George Washington, as quoted in a Letter to George Washington Parke Custis

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George Washington Quotes about Politics

George Washington Quotes about Politics

by Gilbert Stuart (1797)

“Arbitrary power is most easily established on the ruins of liberty abused to licentiousness.”

– George Washington, as quoted in “Circular to the States” (8 June 1783).

 


“If men are to be precluded from offering their sentiments on a matter which may involve the most serious and alarming consequences that can invite the consideration of mankind, reason is of no use to us; the freedom of speech may be taken away, and dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”

– George Washington, as quoted in a Address to officers of the Army (15 March 1783)

 


“One of the expedients of party to acquire influence, within particular districts, is to misrepresent the opinions and aims of other districts. You cannot shield yourselves too much against the jealousies and heart-burnings, which spring from these misrepresentations; they tend to render alien to each other those, who ought to be bound together by fraternal affection.”

– George Washington

 


“I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the state, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party, generally.”

– George Washington

 


“The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty.”

– George Washington

  


“It may be laid down, as a primary position, and the basis of our system, that every citizen who enjoys the protection of a free government, owes not only a proportion of his property, but even of his personal services to the defence of it, and consequently that the Citizens of America (with a few legal and official exceptions) from 18 to 50 Years of Age should be borne on the Militia Rolls, provided with uniform Arms, and so far accustomed to the use of them, that the Total strength of the Country might be called forth at Short Notice on any very interesting Emergency.”

– George Washington, “Sentiments on a Peace Establishment” in a letter to Alexander Hamilton (2 May 1783); published in The Writings of George Washington (1938)

 


“If you tell the Legislatures they have violated the treaty of peace and invaded the prerogatives of the confederacy they will laugh in your face. What then is to be done? Things cannot go on in the same train forever. It is much to be feared, as you observe, that the better kind of people being disgusted with the circumstances will have their minds prepared for any revolution whatever. We are apt to run from one extreme into another. To anticipate & prevent disasterous contingencies would be the part of wisdom & patriotism.”

– George Washington

 


“You will, by the dignity of your Conduct, afford occasion for Posterity to say, when speaking of the glorious example you have exhibited to Mankind, had this day been wanting, the World had never seen the last stage of perfection to which human nature is capable of attaining.”

– George Washington, as quoted in a Response to the first Newburgh Address (15 March 1783)

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George Washington Quotes about Religion


“We have abundant reason to rejoice, that, in this land, the light of truth and reason has triumphed over the power of bigotry and superstition, and that every person may here worship God according to the dictates of his own heart. In this enlightened age, & in this land of equal liberty, it is our boast, that a man’s religious tenets will not forfeit the protection of the laws, nor deprive him of the right of attaining & holding the highest offices that are known in the United States.”

– George Washington


Let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect, that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

– George Washington

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George Washington Quotes about Society


“When one side only of a story is heard and often repeated, the human mind becomes impressed with it insensibly.”

– George Washington, as quoted in a Letter to Edmund Pendleton


“A people… who are possessed of the spirit of commerce, who see and who will pursue their advantages may achieve almost anything.”

– George Washington, as quoted in a Letter to Benjamin Harrison V


“What astonishing changes a few years are capable of producing! I am told that even respectable characters speak of a monarchical form of government without horror. From thinking proceeds speaking, thence to acting is often but a single step. But how irrevocable & tremendous! What a triumph for the advocates of despotism to find that we are incapable of governing ourselves, and that systems founded on the basis of equal liberty are merely ideal & falacious! Would to God that wise measures may be taken in time to avert the consequences we have but too much reason to apprehend.”

– George Washington


“To enlarge the sphere of social happiness is worthy of the benevolent design of a Masonic institution; and it is most fervently to be wished, that the conduct of every member of the fraternity, as well as those publications, that discover the principles which actuate them, may tend to convince mankind that the grand object of Masonry is to promote the happiness of the human race.”

– George Washington, as quoted in a Letter to the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (January 1793), published in The Writings Of George Washington


“The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the republican model of government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.”

– George Washington


“The Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.”

– George Washington


“Promote, then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.”

– George Washington

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George Washington Quotes about War

George Washington Quotes about War, Charles Willson Peale 1776

By: Charles Willson Peale (1776)

“To expect … the same service from raw and undisciplined recruits, as from veteran soldiers, is to expect what never did and perhaps never will happen. Men, who are familiarized to danger, meet it without shrinking; whereas troops unused to service often apprehend danger where no danger is.”

– George Washington, as quoted in a Letter to the President of Congress


“To place any dependence upon militia, is, assuredly, resting upon a broken staff. Men just dragged from the tender scenes of domestic life – unaccustomed to the din of arms – totally unacquainted with every kind of military skill, which being followed by a want of confidence in themselves when opposed to troops regularly trained, disciplined, and appointed, superior in knowledge, and superior in arms, makes them timid and ready to fly from their own shadows.”

– George Washington, as quoted in a Letter to the president of Congress, Heights of Harlem


“Let us therefore animate and encourage each other, and show the whole world that a Freeman, contending for liberty on his own ground, is superior to any slavish mercenary on earth.”

– George Washington, as quoted in General Orders, Headquarters, New York (2 July 1776)


“The time is now near at hand which must probably determine whether Americans are to be freemen or slaves; whether they are to have any property they can call their own; whether their houses and farms are to be pillaged and destroyed, and themselves consigned to a state of wretchedness from which no human efforts will deliver them. The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army. Our cruel and unrelenting enemy leaves us only the choice of brave resistance, or the most abject submission. We have, therefore, to resolve to conquer or die.”

– George Washington, as quoted in the Address to the Continental Army before the Battle of Long Island (27 August 1776)


“To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.”

– George Washington

 


“My first wish is, to see this plague of mankind banished from the earth, and the sons and daughters of this world employed in more pleasing and innocent amusements, than in preparing implements, and exercising them, for the destruction of mankind.”

– George Washington, as quoted in On war, in a statement of 1785, as quoted in Maxims of Washington : Political, Social, Moral and Religious (1854) John Frederick Schroeder

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