At multiple times during his career, George Washington had the opportunity to permanently seize the reins of power and install himself as an American dictator. Never was this danger greater then in 1783. That year, as the Revolutionary War came to an end, many openly wondered whether or not Washington would use his position as commander of the army to usurp Congressional authority and personally consolidate power - a temptation to which countless other military leaders have succumbed throughout the course of human history. The great moment of truth had arrived and the nations' future hung in the balance; the fate of millions, born and unborn, would hinge upon one man's internal struggle between ambition and integrity.
Rather than become an American Julius Caesar, however, the father of our country was determined that the new nation should be a true republic. He resolved to lay down his command and return to private life. When told of Washington's intended course, Great Britain's King George III incredulously said, "If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world."
True to his word, on December 23, 1783 (231 years ago today), George Washington voluntarily resigned his commission before Congress. To mark the event, a ceremony was held inside the Maryland Statehouse in Annapolis during which Washington spoke these words,
To be sure, Washington was not done with his career as a public servant. Eventually he would be called upon to lead the Constitutional Convention and was later elected the first President of the United States. Invariably, however, Washington remained steadfast in his commitment to the democratic experiment and, as a result, our inheritance of liberty continues to this day. How very much we owe to the character of this one, remarkable, man.
God bless George Washington.