News flash From Washington, DC--August 9, 2009
Today we continue our interview with former President George Washington. Sorry about the delay, but developing news stories came first.
PMNS: Mr. President, we left off in our last interview talking about slavery and the impact it had on the formation of the nation. Now we’d like to look at your involvement in the revolution. Your battle record suggests that, as a commander, you had relatively few successes. What say you?
PRES: It is true that we lost many more battles than we won, but those that we did win were very crucial to our survival and in keeping the morale and fighting spirit of the troops at the highest level possible. Even though I was not in command at Breeds Hill (the technical name for the battle of Bunker Hill), the American fighting man exhibited a fierce determination to protect home and hearth from the invading British. Though a strategic defeat, the fight was a moral victory.
PMNS: How about the battles in New York City? It almost seemed that the Americans were lucky to extricate themselves despite, what can only be called, your ineptness at formulating good battle tactics.
PRES: I wouldn’t say that I, or our commanders, were inept. We were facing seasoned fighting troops from an international power that had been bloodied from years of combat on the continent. We--
PMNS: But Mr. President, had it not been for weather conditions and a streak of luck your troops and yourself would have been surrounded and captured.
PRES: Once again, we were faced with a prospect of facing commanders whose tactics and strategy had been forged in years of struggle with the French. Our men were not regular soldiers trained in the arts and crafts of war, but a mere collection of farmers and tradesmen. I’m proud of the way they presented themselves on the field of battle.
PMNS: Despite your, shall we say, inability to recognize either advantages or poor planning on the part of the British?
PRES: You may be correct in saying that we should have realized their strategic advantages more readily, but my personal experiences in battle were a far cry from that which took place in the early battles of the revolution. The French and Indian War was fought in the far interior and tactics used were different from those employed in New York or New Jersey. In any event, Providence saw to it that we should escape the confines of Brooklyn and the city to fight another day.
PMNS: What battle stands, to your mind, as the most important of the war?
PRES: Saratoga. Without this victory there would have been, quite likely, no involvement by the French in our cause. Gates and Arnold fought a brilliant battle. But Burgoyne acted foolishly in thinking that the American soldier wasn’t up to the task. We were fighting our kind of battle in the interior on our terms. Burgoyne never truly grasped the conditions he had to fight under. It’s been said that when Ben Franklin heard of our victory, he knew the French would be committed to our cause. If we had lost at Saratoga, we would have lost the war that year;1777.
PMNS: So the French assistance made all the difference?
PRES: Perhaps not all, but a good part of it. By the time we joined up at Yorktown with the French fleet, Corwallis knew Britain’s attempt to control the Colonies was lost.
PMNS: Now on to your presidency. As our very first president, was it difficult leading a nation with only a written Constitution as a guide?
PRES: The Constitution was more than a guide; it was the law. We knew the power of monarchy and what effect it had on people. It robbed them of their individuality, of their right to life, liberty and property, as Jefferson had so eloquently expressed. In creating a Constitution that men could understand and be inspired by, we were able to form the glue that would bind us as men living a free life deciding for ourselves what our destiny was to be. There were shortcomings as there are for any man made adventure, but those could be addressed with the Constitution as our guide.
PMNS: What was the most difficult aspect you were confronted with in the early years of the nation?
PRES: We had such strong willed, brilliant men leading us in those years. Getting men like Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Adams to agree on policy and the building of the nation itself was draining at times. I knew, however, there was no room for failure. The British, and indeed the French, were watching us closely for any slip we might make so they might take advantage and dissolve our Union. There were times I thought we might falter, but utter failure was unthinkable. Too much blood and treasure had been spent to conceive of failure and indeed we could not let it be so. I hope and pray that those who come after us will understand the price we paid for our, and their, freedom. It would be a shame to let our Constitution, our struggle and our dreams of self government pass into oblivion for the siren song of demagogues or kings.
PMNS: Thank you, Mr. President.