Washington at Constitution
George Washington at Constitutional Convention
George Washington presiding over the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention, Howard Chandler Christy (1873-1952)
Tradition has it that when wide-eyed, star-struck fans met him face-to-face, he would say, “I am only a man.” But George Washington was God’s gift—reasonable, humble and wise—the perfect fit to lead a divided, fledgling nation. 


12 Reasonable & Wise Washington Quotes (Ordered Chronologically)

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, [are] 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 

Which quote do you like the most? Why? 

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 force his agenda. He preferred the good of his nation over having his own way. Author Nathaniel Philbrick notes, 

Unlike Hamilton and Jefferson, Washington didn’t need to be right all the time. 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.

Such is the meekness of wisdom, of strength under God’s control. 

The Meek Wisdom From Above

In the book of James, we find a pithy description of wisdom, of real, meek wisdom. 

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom…For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. (James 3:13, 16-17, ESV) 


Numbers 12:3 says Moses was “very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth.” He did not fly off the handle when his sister and brother grumbled against him, and he even pleaded their case before God. Clearly, meekness does not mean weakness. It did not in Moses, one of the best, most courageous leaders in Israel’s history. And it did not in our George. 

Yes, our first President was “only a man.” But like the best of leaders, Washington’s wisdom was meek, peaceable, and open to reason.

In my book, those traits are the making of great.

With whom can you show your “reasonableness” today? 

Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand.

Philippians 4:5 (ESV)

P.S.—Our book club read Philbrick’s, Travels With George last year. I recommend it. “It could be argued,”  Philbrick wrote, “that the only reason the Constitution was ultimately ratified…was that no matter what a person believed about the merits of the new government, everyone could agree that only Washington should lead it.” Truly, our first President was a meek, wise, and reasonable man. 

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *