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February 22, 1732 – December 14, 1799
General Washington is Abhorred by a Request to be King
In May 1782 about a year before the end of the American War for Independence, Colonel Lewis Nicola, commander
of the Invalid Regiment, wrote a letter to General Washington. In the letter, Col. Nicola proposed that America must
establish a monarchy with George Washington as its King. Nicola was not alone in his thinking. Throughout history
most nations had been ruled by monarchs, and certainly Americans were accustomed to living under monarchical rule.
However, this proposal of making Washington the newly born nation's "King George I" could not have been a greater insult to George Washington, who had given most of his life in service to his country to ensure that his fellow citizens and future generations would have true freedom and liberty that could come only under a free form of government wherein the citizens govern themselves.
In his reply to Colonel Nicola, General Washington said:1, pp. 372-73; 2, vol. 24:272-73
Be assured Sir, no occurrence in the course of the War has given me more painful sensations than your information of there being such ideas existing in the Army as you have expressed, and [these] I must view with abhorrence and reprehend with severity. [Such ideas were] big with the greatest mischiefs that can befall my Country.... You could not have found a person to whom your schemes are more disagreeable.George Washington refused to accept compensation as Commanding General of the Continental Army (although he pleaded Congress to compensate all others who served).
To his cousin Lund Washington he wrote [May 19, 1780]: You ask how I am to be rewarded for all this? There is one reward that nothing can deprive me of, and that is the consciousness of having done my duty with the strictest rectitude and most scrupulous exactness.2, vol. 18:392In London, King George III asked the American-born painter Benjamin West what Washington would do now that he had won the war. West replied, "Oh, they say he will return to his farm." Surprised that Washington would not be made King of America, King George III replied3,4
If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world.Toward the end of his second term as President, many people, including "Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and a number of others repeatedly urged Washington to serve another term.... The American public was accustomed to monarchical thinking—many expected Washington to serve as long as he lived, then choose an heir to succeed him in office. Washington wanted to set that notion at rest. His countrymen must freely choose another leader while he was still alive."1, pp. 583-584
1 The Real George Washington, by Jay A. Parry, Andrew M. Allison, and W. Cleon Skousen (2009).
2 The Writings of George Washington, 39 volumes. John C. Fitzpatrick, ed. (1931-44).
3 George Washington: The Founding Father, by Paul Johnson (2005)
4 Cincinnatus: George Washington and the Enlightenment, by Garry Wills (1984), p. 13
5 Founding Father, by Richard Brookhiser (1997), p. 103