George Washington Quotes

60+ George Washington Quotes on Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

The first president of the United States of America was George Washington. He was a founding father, a leader in the Continental Army, a general, a commander-in-chief during the American Revolution, and a pivotal figure in history. 

Washington was born in 1732 in Virginia to a decently wealthy family. His father had land, owned slaves, built mills, and grew tobacco. There is little information about his childhood except that he was homeschooled and then, as he got older, he mastered the crafts of growing tobaccos, stock raising, and surveying. He learned geography, Latin, and about colonial culture, after his half-brother, Lawrence married the daughter of Colonel William Fairfax. When he was 11, his father died and left Lawrence the family’s plantation. However, Washington became the heir of the lands after Lawrence died. At age 20, Washington became the head of Virginia’s most prominent estates, Mount Vernon. 

Farming was one of his proudest professions, especially with Mount Vernon’s 8,000-acre of land. He enjoyed working in the land, alongside those he enslaved. By the 1790s, Washington had enslaved over 300 people at Mount Vernon. Interestingly enough, he was against the institution of slavery but accepted it while it was legal. He even had a set of false teeth; although the legend suggests that the teeth were made of wood, they were, in fact, pulled from the mouths of those he enslaved. His wife, Martha, brought a large fortune with her when they married–18,000-acre estate–and they had two kids, John (age 6) and Martha (age 4), but when Martha died unexpectedly just before the start of the Revolution and John died during it, Martha and he then adopted two children. 

Throughout his life, Washington had a number of rankings under his belt: a Major in the Virginia militia, a Colonel in British General Edward Braddock’s army, the Commander of all Virginia troops, and Major General and Commander-in-Chief of the colonial forces against Britain. He led his army into Pennslyvania across the Delaware River and he fought the darkest battle in the winter of 1777 at Valley Forge. He retired from all army regiments and went into politics in 1758. He opposed the Stamp Act of 1765, he passed the Coercive Acts of 1774, and he called for the convening of the Continental Congress to amend the Articles of Confederation and develop the U.S. Constitution. During this time, he was also chosen to be the president.

In 1783, after years of fighting, Washington surrendered and resigned from being the Commander-in-Chief. He retired from all power and returned home to Mount Vernon. In 1799, he died from an unexpected illness. There is so much more to know about this man and his power within the government. He is a seemingly controversial figure of history, developing the 3 government branches and checks and balances, and was considered a military hero. However, his intentions for the liberty and freedom of people of the nation are still in discussion. Nonetheless, here are some quotes by president George Washington about life, liberty, government, war, and the happiness of a nation.

George Washington Quotes
Gilbert Stuart – http://www.clarkart.edu/Collection/7577

George Washington Quotes on Government, War, Liberty, and Freedom

“If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”

“The United States came into existence as a Nation, and if their Citizens should not be completely free and happy, the fault will be entirely their own.”

“Unhappy it is, though, to reflect that a brother’s sword has been sheathed in a brother’s breast and that the once-happy plains of America are either to be drenched with blood or inhabited by slaves. Sad alternative!”

“In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.”

Government is not reason and it is not eloquence. It is force! Like fire it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.”

“Laws made by common consent must not be trampled on by individuals.”

“It will be found unjust and unwise jealousy to deprive a man of his natural liberty upon the supposition he may abuse it.”

“A free people ought not only to be armed, but disciplined; to which end a uniform and well-digested plan is requisite; and their safety and interest require that they should promote such manufactories as tend to render them independent of others for essential, particularly military, supplies.”

“The Constitution is the guide which I never will abandon.”

“Let us therefore animate and encourage each other, and show the whole world that a Freeman, contending for liberty on his own ground, is superior to any slavish mercenary on earth.”

“War – An act of violence whose object is to constrain the enemy, to accomplish our will.”

“The Constitution which at any time exists, ’till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole People is sacredly obligatory upon all.”

“However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”

“Individuals entering into society must give up a share of liberty to preserve the rest.”

“In politics as in philosophy, my tenets are few and simple. The leading one of which, and indeed that which embraces most others, is to be honest and just ourselves and to exact it from others, meddling as little as possible in their affairs where our own are not involved. If this maxim was generally adopted, wars would cease and our swords would soon be converted into reap hooks and our harvests be more peaceful, abundant, and happy.”

“Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism.”

“The basis of our political system is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government.”

Arbitrary power is most easily established on the ruins of liberty abused to licentiousness.”

“As Mankind becomes more liberal, they will be more apt to allow that all those who conduct themselves as worthy members of the community are equally entitled to the protections of civil government. I hope ever to see America among the foremost nations of justice and liberality.”

“Where are our Men of abilities? Why do they not come forth to save their Country?”

“If we desire to avoid insult, we must be able to repel it; if we desire to secure peace, one of the most powerful instruments of our rising prosperity, it must be known, that we are at all times ready for War.”

Real men despise battle, but will never run from it.”

“The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism.”

“The due administration of justice is the firmest pillar of good government, I have considered the first arrangement of the judicial department as essential to the happiness of the country, and to the stability of its political system.”

“The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is, in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible.”

“Observe good faith and justice towards all nations. Cultivate peace and harmony with all.” 

George Washington Quotes on Religion

“Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

“The propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained.”

“I now make it my earnest prayer, that God would have you, and the State over which you preside, in his holy protection, that he would incline the hearts of the Citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to Government, to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellow Citizens of the United States at large, and particularly for their brethren who have served in the Field, and finally, that he would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all, to do Justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that Charity, humility and pacific temper of mind, which were the Characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed Religion, and without a humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy Nation.”

Divine providence, to whom we are infinitely more indebted than we are to our own wisdom, or our own exertions, has always displayed its power and goodness when clouds and thick darkness seemed ready to overwhelm us.”

“To give opinions unsupported by reasons might appear dogmatical.”

“Religious controversies are always productive of more acrimony and irreconcilable hatreds than those which spring from any other cause. I had hoped that liberal and enlightened thought would have reconciled the Christians so that their religious fights would not endanger the peace of Society.”

“You are to protect and support the free exercise of religion of the country, and the undisturbed enjoyment of the rights of conscience in religious matters, with your utmost influence and authority.”

“May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants-while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid. May the father of all mercies scatter light, and not darkness, upon our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in His own due time and way everlastingly happy.”

“We have abundant reason to rejoice that in this Land the light of truth and reason has triumphed over the power of bigotry and superstition, and that every person may here worship God according to the dictates of his own heart.”

“In this enlightened Age and in this Land of equal liberty it is our boast, that a man’s religious tenets will not forfeit the protection of the Laws, nor deprive him of the right of attaining and holding the highest Offices that are known in the United States.”

“The United States of America should have a foundation free from the influence of clergy.”

“I beg you be persuaded that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution.”

“The time is now near at hand which must probably determine whether Americans are to be freemen or slaves; whether they are to have any property they can call their own; whether their houses and farms are to be pillaged and destroyed, and themselves consigned to a state of wretchedness from which no human efforts will deliver them. The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army. Our cruel and unrelenting enemy leaves us only the choice of brave resistance, or the most abject submission. We have, therefore, to resolve to conquer or die.”

George Washington Quotes on Life, Love, Friendship, and Happiness

Human happiness and moral duty are inseparably connected.”

“My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her.”

“We should not look back unless it is to derive useful lessons from past errors, and for the purpose of profiting by dearly bought experience.”

True friendship is a plant of slow growth and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity before it is entitled to appellation. ”

“Associate yourself with men of good quality, if you esteem your own reputation; for ‘tis better to be alone than in bad company.”

“A sensible woman can never be happy with a fool.”

Happiness depends more on the internal frame of a person’s own mind, than on the externals in the world.”

“I have always considered marriage as the most interesting event of one’s life, the foundation of happiness or misery.”

“A slender acquaintance with the world must convince every man that actions, not words, are the true criterion of the attachment of friends.”

“Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence.”

George Washington Quotes to Strengthen Your Character

“It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one.”

“99% of failures come from people who make excuses.”

“I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.

“There is nothing which can better deserve our patronage than the promotion of science and literature. Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of public happiness.”

“Perseverance and spirit have done wonders in all ages.”

“I conceive a knowledge of books is the basis upon which other knowledge is to be built.”

“To encourage literature and the arts is a duty which every good citizen owes to his country.”

“The harder the conflict, the greater the triumph.”

“Worry is the interest paid by those who borrow trouble.”

“The turning points of lives are not the great moments. The real crises are often concealed in occurrences so trivial in appearance that they pass unobserved.”

“Let your heart feel for the afflictions and distress of everyone.”

“Anything will give up its secrets if you love it enough. Not only have I found that when I talk to the little flower or to the little peanut they will give up their secrets, but I have found that when I silently commune with people they give up their secrets also – if you love them enough.”

Bad seed is a robbery of the worst kind: for your pocket-book not only suffers by it, but your preparations are lost and a season passes away unimproved.”

“Be not glad at the misfortune of another, though he may be your enemy.”

“I’ll die on my feet before I’ll live on my knees!”

“Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire, called conscience.”

“The foolish and wicked practice of profane cursing and swearing is a vice so mean and low that every person of sense and character detests and despises it.”

“A man’s intentions should be allowed in some respects to plead for his actions.”

Quotes About George Washington

“George Washington’s conduct convinced most Americans that he was a good Christian, but those possessing first-hand knowledge of his religious convictions had reasons for doubt.”

“…he was not just striking a popular attitude as a politician is revealed by the absence of the usual Christian terms: he did not mention Christ or even use the word ‘God.’ Following the phraseology of the philosophical Deism he professed, he referred to ‘the invisible hand which conducts the affairs of men,’ to ‘the benign parent of the human race.'”

“George Washington thought he belonged to the Episcopal church, never mentioned Christ in any of his writings and he was a deist.”

More Quotes:

About the author
January Nelson is a writer, editor, dreamer, and occasional exotic dancer and a collective pen name. Read more articles from January on Thought Catalog.

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