12 Wise, Reasonable Washington Quotes

George Washington at Constitutional Convention
George Washington presiding over the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention, Howard Chandler Christy (1873-1952)
He was “only a man.” But George Washington was God’s gift—reasonable, humble and wise. He was the right man to lead a divided, infant nation. 

Our book club just finished Nathaniel Philbrick’s, Travels With George.  “It could be argued,”  Philbrick wrote, “that the only reason the Constitution was ultimately ratified by the nine states required to trigger a national election was that no matter what a person believed about the merits of the new government, everyone could agree that only Washington should lead it.”

Tradition has it that when wide-eyed, star-struck met him face-to-face,  he would say, “I am only a man.” 

Those 12 Quotes

1. 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, letter to Governor Dinwiddie, May 29, 1754

2. By the all-powerful dispensations of Providence, I have been protected beyond all human probability and expectation; for I had four bullets through my coat, and two horses shot under me, yet escaped unhurt, altho’ death was leveling my companions on every side.

GEORGE WASHINGTON, Letter to John A. Washington, July 18, 1755

3. While we are contending for our own liberty, we should be very cautious not to violate the rights of conscience in others, ever considering that God alone is the judge of the hearts of men, and to him only in this case they are answerable.

GEORGE WASHINGTON, letter to Benedict Arnold, September 14, 1775

4. The determinations of Providence are always wise, often inscrutable; and, though its decrees appear to bear hard upon us at times, is nevertheless meant for gracious purposes.

GEORGE WASHINGTON, letter to Bryan Fairfax, March1, 1778

5. I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is the best policy.

GEORGE WASHINGTON, Farewell Address to the People of the United States

6. Do not conceive that fine clothes make fine men any more than fine feathers make fine birds.

GEORGE WASHINGTON, letter to Bushrod Washington, January 15, 1783

7. To contract new debts is not the way to pay old ones.

GEORGE WASHINGTON, letter to James Welch, April 7, 1799

8. There is no truth more thoroughly established than that there exists […]an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness.

GEORGE WASHINGTON, First Inaugural Address, April 30, 1789

9. The propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained.

GEORGE WASHINGTON, First Inaugural Address, April 30, 1789

10. If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

GEORGE WASHINGTON, Address to the Officers of the Army, March 15, 1783

11. Happiness depends more upon the internal frame of a person’s own mind than on the externals in the world.

GEORGE WASHINGTON, to his mother Mary Ball Washington, February 15, 1787

12. ‘Tis well. 

GEORGE WASHINGTON’S last words, as recorded by Tobias Lear in his journal, December 14, 1799 


Only A (Modest, Wise, Reasonable) Man

Those who knew Washington best never doubted his sincere Christian faith.  His mottos were, “Deeds, not Words” and, “For God and my Country.”

Washington’s wisdom was uncommon. He knew what was in a man. He knew that, though sometimes inscrutable and painful, Providence is always gracious.

But our first President was also a modest and reasonable man. He didn’t need to force his way. He preferred the good of his nation over his own private good.

Philbrick again, “Unlike Hamilton and Jefferson, Washington didn’t need to be right all the tie. He just wanted to make things work. He understood that feasible change is not attained by righteous indignation; it’s understanding that the road ahead is full of compromises if life is actually going to get better.” 

Yes, our first President was “only a man.” But like the best of leaders, his humility was great.

Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.

The Lord is at hand.

Philippians 4:5