A lot of ink has been spilled covering the lives of history's most influential figures, but how much of the forest is lost for the trees? In Charles River Editors' American Legends series, listeners can get caught up to speed on the lives of America's most important men and women in the time it takes to finish a commute, while learning interesting facts long forgotten or never known.
Every American is taught a pristine narrative of the life and legacy of George Washington and can easily recite the highlights of the "Father of Our Country". The remarkable Virginian led an under-resourced, rag-tag army to ultimate victory in the American Revolution before becoming the nation's first president, setting it on its path toward superpower status. He may not have actually chopped down a cherry tree or tossed a silver dollar across the Potomac, but his contemporaries considered his character above reproach. When Washington voluntary resigned as commander of the armies, he stunned the world. Everyone in the colonies and the world realized that Washington, at the head of the last army standing in the colonies, could have made himself king of the new United States on the spot, and it would have been a move supported by his rank and file soldiers. Instead, Washington became the first Westerner to voluntarily demobilize his army, ensuring civilian control of the new nation. King George III called Washington "the greatest character of the age" for making that decision.
As President from 1788-1796, Washington set every precedent for the executive branch of the new government, from forming a "Cabinet" to limiting himself to two terms. He even set precedents with his farewell address, which helped guide the policies of subsequent administrations.