Monday, January 19, 2009

What If Washington Had Become King?

Of course, with all the inauguration folderol going on this week, we're seeing lots and lots of punditry on the event, and lots of reflections in the news about the character of our presidents. And if you do find the current events inspiring, I wish you well, and hope you have a very good week. But forgive me; for myself, I find I'm turning into one of those old geezers where you practically can't get them excited without setting their pants on fire.

Meh. Bunch of wet-behind-the-ears whippersnappers. Now in my day, we knew what to do with our presidents: we mostly ignored 'em, and we liked it that way. Well, it made us feel better, at any rate.

I find in my advancing age I'm starting to think and act a lot more like, um... Carl Fredrickson.

I haven't even seen the movie yet (since it comes out in May) and already that guy is my hero. So after my kids are all up and grown, and off doing those darn fool things that college kids do, don't be surprised to hear on the news about some obscure, semi-coherent west-coast blogger just up and airlifts his house to Alaska or Tahiti or somewhere because he got sick of dealing with the Gub'mint.

But! That's not the point of this post. I saw something today that put a smile on my face and made me think a little. What if Washington had decided he wanted to be a king? There were plenty of people in this country who wanted him in power. What would have happened?

Well, this article tracks out who would be in line for the throne today. Washington himself didn't have kids, but his two brothers did, and there are about 200 people in the country today with the last name of Washington who are descended from them. And if you follow a similar set of rules for succession as they had in Britain, we can identify our would-have-been monarch: His name is Paul Washington, and he's a retired business manager of a building supply company in (of all places) Valley Forge.

And I loved this comment from his son Bill W: “Somewhere along the line we lost the height... George Washington was 6 feet 3 inches, and I guess from the love of little women over 200 years, we gradually got smaller.”

Yup, that would do it.

Anyway, it's probably good for these people that their ancestor decided to reject the crown. Royal lines have a way of ending badly--a point that they fully acknowledge. But when Paul Washington says, "I doubt if I'd be a very good king", that at least is in itself evidence that he'd be better at it than he thinks. I subscribe to the theory, advanced in literary works as different as The Hitchhiker's Guide trilogy and the Chronicles of Narnia, that those people who want to be ruler, who think they're ready and would make a swell ruler, and who are most capable of getting themselves into power, are precisely the people you don't want running things.

Washington was a magnificent president, and was the main reason we have as many liberties today as we do--he accepted the presidency because we needed him, not because he had any particular burning ambition of his own for the post. And when he felt he'd done his duty, he happily relinquished power and went back to his farm. Now that is an admirable example.

And it's good to see that the same kind of modesty persists in his progeny, these many generations later. That shows you what Good Breeding can do.

(Even if the women were all a little short...)

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