Why George Washington Shouldn’t Be Canceled
As my book George Washington, Entrepreneur heads toward release on June 30, the father of our country is making news, but for somewhat disappointing reasons. Washington was the number-one trending topic on Twitter a few days ago, after his statue was toppled and defaced in Portland. One day later, his statue was also defaced in Baltimore’s Druid Hill Park. These are just two of the “cancel” attempts on George Washington in the past two weeks.
Schools are canceling him as well. It may be predictable that Berkeley just announced it was renaming Washington Elementary School, but also an elite private girls’ school in Nashville dropped its annual celebration of Washington’s birthday. As reported a story broken by the Tennessee Star—and picked up by The Federalist, Washington Times and Daily Wire—the head of the private all-female prep middle school and high school Harpeth Hall said that the annual reflection on the father of our country was “not consistent with or relevant to the way that we teach history today.”
Not relevant! If anything, current events only serve to make him more relevant than ever. In my book—with the full title George Washington: Entrepreneur: How Our Founding Father’s Private Business Pursuits Changed America and the World (St. Martin’s, 2020)—I explain how George Washington paved the way for American innovation and dynamism through his business ventures and support of early American inventors. I reveal how excessive British regulation was a big factor in turning him toward revolution. I also show how Washington crusaded against bigotry toward Catholics and Jews and eventually turned against slavery—speaking out against it frequently in letters and freeing all his enslaved workers in his will.
I discussed the Harpeth Hall controversy on The Tennessee Star Report Early Edition with Michael Patrick Leahy Nashville’s WLAC. Here’s a summary of what I said on the show:
I think it’s very sad but unfortunately typical of what’s going on in the rest of the country. If I were a parent with a student at that school, I would be very disappointed that they were not giving my child a well-rounded education. …
Washington wasn’t perfect, and It’s fine to teach criticism of him and the other Founding Fathers, but this school official actually says learning about him is irrelevant. But of course, George Washington is relevant if you live in this country, being the father of this country and someone who set up the American system. He took the unheard step of voluntarily giving up power both after the war for independence and then as president, setting the American precedent of peaceful transition of power. …
George Washington was also responsible in many ways for setting up America’s tradition of innovation. He was an innovator himself. Making new plows and creating things like a 16-sided barn. He was the first to bring mules to America. And introducing crop rotation. Giving up tobacco when he found it was harmful to soil, and planting new crops like weed and hemp. And he was a patron of American inventors both as a private citizen and a president.
There are so many things I think that are inspiring today about both George and Martha.
And now for a shameless plug—here are couple places you can order my forthcoming book: Here is the link to buy the book on Amazon. And here is the St. Martin’s book page with reviews and endorsements and links to order the book on many book sites. CEI is also having a virtual event on the book, with special guest Professor Deirdre McCloskey, on Tuesday, July 7.