Hamilton, Morris and a Wager

George Washington, although he could relax with friends, always had a very dignified, almost rigid, public persona.  This is understandable since almost his entire adult life he was looked to for leadership by increasingly larger groups:  Virginia, the Continental Army and then the entire nation.  He wanted to make sure that no casual remark he made would cause complications for him as a leader.  Alexander Hamilton, who had a puckish sense of humor, knew this aspect of Washington well, having served as Washington’s secretary during the war.  Gouverneur Morris did not.

According to a story which may be apocryphal, at the Constitutional Convention  Hamilton offered to pay for a meal for Morris and 12 of his friends if Morris would slap Washington on the back.  Morris did, while greeting Washington.  Washington responded with an icy stare, and Morris afterwords said he would not repeat what he had done for any sum of money.

The story certainly is in character for all three men:  Hamilton the player of pranks, Morris the bon vivant and Washington the grave, in public, statesman.  It also makes me wonder if Washington would have succeeded as a leader in our superficial times.  I assume he would have been attacked as haughty, snobbish and completely lacking the common touch.  He encountered some of this criticism during his life, but it had little impact as most voters wanted a leader who was serious, able and who, frankly, they assumed was several cuts above them in almost all qualities relating to being President.  Yeah, Washington would have had very rough going if he were attempting to lead the country in our Oprah and Dr. Phil culture.


Published in: on May 12, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Hamilton, Morris and a Wager  
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