Saturday, December 15, 2007

December 14, 1799: George Washington Dies

On December 14, 1799, His Excellency, the First President of the United States, George Washington -- variously nicknamed the Father of His Country, the Sword of the Revolution, the American Fabius, the American Cincinnatus, the Old Fox, the Sage of Mount Vernon, the Farmer President and the Surveyor President -- died at his home of pneumonia or perhaps epiglottitis, made worse by medical bleeding. He was the only president whose lifespan was completely within the 18th century.

Congress selected Henry "Light-Horse Harry" Lee to deliver a eulogy on behalf of the nation. Lee, a former Continental army officer and a Virginia congressman (and the father of Robert E. Lee), delivered the immortal speech on December 26, 1799:

"First in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen, he was second to none in the humble and endearing scenes of private life. Pious, just, humane, temperate and sincere—uniform, dignified and commanding—his example was as edifying to all around him as were the effects of that example lasting... Correct throughout, vice shuddered in his presence and virtue always felt his fostering hand. The purity of his private character gave effulgence to his public virtues... Such was the man for whom our nation mourns."

Today is also the anniversary of the death of football player George Gipp, who died in 1920. In 1940, Ronald Reagan played him in the movie Knute Rockne, All American, and the nickname Gipper stuck to the future 40th President of the United States.

No comments: