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George Washington: Quotations and Observations on the Leadership Style of George Washington

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"We have now a National character to establish, and it is of the utmost importance to stamp favorable impressions upon it." (p. 133)

"Speak seldom....Never exceed a decent warmth, and submit your sentiments with diffidence.  A dictatorial stile, though it may carry conviction, is always accompanied with disgust." (p. 65)

"You are wrong.  My countenance never yet betrayed my feelings." 
Response to Henrietta Lipton, wife of the British ambassador, who stated that she could see the pleasure he expected from retirement in his face. (p. 5)

"If I were to wish the bitterest curse to an enemy on this side of the grave, I should put him in my situation....In confidence I tell you that I never was in such an unhappy, divided state since I was born." 
After his defeats at Long Island and Kip's Bay
(p. 26)

"When men are irritated and the Passions inflamed, they fly hastily and cheerfully to Arms; but, after the first emotions are over, to expect, among such People, as compose the bulk of an Army, that they are influenced by any other principles than those of Interest, is to look for what never did, and I fear never will happen."
Letter to the President of Congress from Harlem
(pp. 25, 26)
 

"...if the laws are to be so trampled upon with impunity, and a minority...is to dictate to the majority, there is an end put at one stroke to republican government...for some other man or society may dislike another law and oppose it with equal propriety until all laws are prostrate, and everyone will carve for himself."
Washington's observation about the Whiskey Rebellion
(p.90)

"The Nation, which indulges towards another an habitual hatred, or an habitual fondness, is to some degree a slave.  It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest." 
The Farewell Address (p.101)

(The preceding quotations are from Richard Brookhiser, Founding Father. NY: The Free Press, 1996)

"To be prepared for war is the most effectual means to promote peace."
      (Quoted in Edmund Morris,
The Rise Of Theodore Roosevelt. NY: The Modern Library, p. 593)

"Do not look for a perfect felicity before you consent to wed. Nor conceive, from the fine tales the poets and lovers of old have told us of the transports of mutual love, that heaven has taken its abode on earth. Nor do not deceive yourself in supposing that the only means by which these are to be obtained is to drink deep of the cup and revel in an ocean of love. Love is a mighty pretty thing, but, like all other delicious things, it is cloying; and when the first transports of a passion began to subside, which it assuredly will do, and yield, oftentimes too late, to more sober reflections, it serves to evince that love is too dainty a food to live on alone, and ought not to be considered further than as a necessary ingredient for that matrimonial happiness which results from a combination of causes: none of which are of greater importance than that the object on whom it is placed should possess good sense, a good disposition, and the means of supporting you in the way you have been brought up. Such qualifications cannot fail to attract (after marriage) your esteem and regard into which or into disgust, sooner or later love naturally resolves itself ....be assured, and experience will convince you that there is no truth more certain than that all our enjoyments fall short of our expectations, and to none does it apply with more force than to the gratification of the passions."  (Advice about marriage to his step-granddaughter, quoted in James Thomas Flexner,
Washington: The Indispensable Man. Boston: Little, Brown & Co. 1979, pp. 41, 42)

Quotations About George Washington's
Leadership Style

"His eyes retire inward and have nothing of fire or animation or openness in their expression.  If this circumspection is accompanied by discernment and penetration, as I am informed it is...he possesses the two great requisites of a statesman, the faculty of concealing his own sentiments and of discovering those of other men."
     (Observation by the secretary of a British diplomat quoted in Richard Brookhiser, pp. 78,79)

"(He) possessed the gift of silence." 
      (Comment by President John Adams quoted in
Richard Brookhiser, p. 79)

"Thousands have learned to restrain their passions, though few among them had to contend with passions so violent."
   (Comment by Gouveneur Morris quoted in Richard Brookhiser, p.6)

"If you are a prodigy or a genius, an Alexander or a Caesar, then you bring victory from whatever you touch.  Washington was not in that class.   But a successful general does not have to be the best general in the world.  All he has to be...is better than the generals he faces."
     (Observation by Richard Brookhiser p. 34)

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For information about Gene Griessman's Abraham Lincoln portrayals, click here