Best Defense

A salute to Washington, the essential man

George Washington, in his person and actions, bound the nation together.


The older I get, the more I like Sidney Bechet’s music. And also the character of old George Washington. Sure, he was low-key. But that was a virtue, not a vice.

Reading about the Revolution over the summer, I began to wonder if we would have won the Revolution without him. Kevin Phillips points out in The Cousins’ Wars that there is a straight line connecting the English Civil War, the American Revolution, and the American Civil War. Each was essentially a civil war, and each had at its core a clash between types of Cavaliers and types of Puritans.

The difference in the American Revolution was that Washington, of Virginia Cavalier background, rode into Puritan New England in July 1775 and took command of the citizens’ army in Massachusetts and made it a national force. Thus Washington in his person and actions bound the nation together.

Image credit: Charles Willson Peale/Washington and Lee Universty

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at

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