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Why George Washington rejected a military parade in his honor (and why Donald Trump should, too)

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tags: George Washington, Trump, military parade



Lindsay M. Chervinsky is a historian and postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University and author of the forthcoming book, "The President's Cabinet: George Washington and the Creation of an American Institution."

... On Oct. 24, 1789, President Washington entered Boston on the back of a large white stallion. This visit was the first time he had returned to the city since the Continental Army had liberated it from the British fleet in March 1776. Washington could have ridden into Boston a conquering hero with full fanfare — parades, feasts, military demonstrations, fireworks, cannons and countless toasts.

Instead, the day before his arrival, Washington pleaded with Gov. John Hancock to limit the celebrations. He then informed Maj. Gen. John Brooks, commander of the Middlesex Militia, that he would not review the militia or observe any special military maneuvers. As a private man, he could only pass down the line of troops assembled to greet him. There would be neither military parades nor any military operations for the newly inaugurated civilian leader.

Washington entered the presidency with more military experience than any of the 44 men who have succeeded him. He fought in two wars and served as the commander in chief of the Continental Army for eight years during the Revolution. When soldiers began toasting “Washington or no army,” delegates to the Continental Congress acknowledged that Washington’s leadership had become synonymous with the army and the cause for independence.

The officer corps and the soldiers deeply revered Washington, and he instilled a great loyalty in his men. When Caleb Gibbs, commander of Washington’s personal guard unit, retired from Washington’s service, he was so overcome with emotion that he wept as they said their goodbyes. In July 1976, Congress posthumously appointed Washington general of the armies of the United States so that no future general would ever outrank the first commander in chief.

Why, then, did Washington, a man intensely proud of his military service and revered for it, reject the trappings of military honor? The answer lies in his steadfast devotion to republican principles. Washington believed that for a republic to survive, civilian authority must reign supreme over the military. As commander in chief of the Continental Army, Washington repeatedly deferred to Congress’s authority and judgment. He welcomed their suggestions, criticisms and participation in camp — even when he disagreed privately with their ideas. ...

Read entire article at The Washington Post

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