Too Long for a Tweet, Too Short for a Blog Post XV
There it was, simple and profound. At the personal level, Washington was declaring that he had sufficient control over his ambitions to recognize that his place in history would be enhanced, not by enlarging his power, but by surrendering it. He was sufficiently self-confident, assured about who he was and what he had achieved, to ignore all whisperings of his indispensability. At the ideological level, Washington was declaring that he instinctively understood the core principle of republicanism, that all legitimate power derived from the consent of the public. He did not agree with the versions of republicanism that emphasized the elimination of executive power altogether, and that opposed energetic government as a violation of all that the American Revolution meant. But he was a republican in the elemental sense that he saw himself as a mere steward for a historical experiment in representative government larger than any single person, larger than himself; an experiment in which all leaders, no matter how indispensable, were disposable, which was what a government of laws and not of men ultimately meant.