Reading Ron Chernow’s magnificent biography of George Washington, I find myself getting emotional over the example of the men who led The American Revolution.

They weren’t perfect by any means.  They were motivated by economic self-interest as much as by idealism, and they were hypocrites.  They took the field in their great war for liberty accompanied by slaves.  They allowed blacks to fight beside them in the Continental Army without the slightest intention of allowing those blacks to share fully in the fruits of the victory they might win together.


But when push came to shove, time and time again they transcended themselves.  They got caught up and swept along by the idea of liberty and it changed them, moved them to do fine and noble and courageous things, things virtually unprecedented in history and in their own lives.

They were big men, capable of rising to big occasions, big challenges.  In American politics today there are no men or women as big as they were.  We are squandering the great gift they left to posterity.

10 thoughts on “BIG MEN

  1. The towers of the past are always flawed, b/c they are judged by new, modern standards. Imagine how your great-grandchildren will despise you!

  2. That looks like the Houdon bust – I’ve got two small plaster copies, one with a dark bronze colored finish and another that looks like white marble. I bought the first at Mount Vernon and somebody gave me the other. If one were inclined to keep graven images as household idols, one could do a whole lot worse…

    • It is the Houdon bust — a brilliant piece of work, regarded at the time as the best likeness of Washington ever done. All of Houdon’s portraits of the founders are amazing.

  3. The Frick Collection has a Houdon (and Clodion) show running through early April. I’ll see it in December.

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