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An American Cincinnatus

An American Cincinnatus

By Jared Carman, Head of School


Cincinnatus was a much-admired Roman statesman, remembered through the ages as the man who, after leading Rome to victory in war, had the power to become king, but instead gave his power back to the people and retired to his farm.


One American statesman, General George Washington, likewise led his country to victory in war, then gave his power back to the people and retired to his beloved wife and home at Mount Vernon. Like Cincinnatus, General Washington focused on winning liberty for his countrymen. During eight long years of war, Washington accepted no pay for himself, while working hard to secure payments for his officers and soldiers. Like Cincinnatus, Washington held both the hearts of his people, and significant power as commander-in-chief of the army.


After the war, when the Continental Congress had not fulfilled its financial obligations to the officers, one of the officers, Colonel Lewis Nicola, wrote a letter to General Washington suggesting that Washington become a new king of the United States. Washington was shocked. In his reply, Washington said that he viewed the idea “with abhorrence,” and firmly but courteously directed Colonel Nicola never to speak of it again.


March 15, 1783 marks the day when, in Newburgh, New York, Continental army officers, who still had not been paid, conspired to rise up against the Continental Congress and take payment by force of arms. On that day Washington met with his officers and denounced the idea, reminding them of the ideals for which they had fought. As Washington finished his remarks, he pulled from his pocket a letter from a member of the Congress. Fumbling with the written words, Washington then pulled out a pair of spectacles, saying, “Gentlemen, you must pardon me. I have grown gray in your service, and now find myself growing blind.” Washington’s words moved his officers to tears. What became known as the “Newburg conspiracy” evaporated as the officers trusted their esteemed leader once more.


After winning victory for his country, Washington became an American Cincinnatus. On Dec 23, 1783, after having won both military and moral victories, Washington resigned his commission and returned to his beloved Mount Vernon.


Washington learned to consider carefully, then take action (actio) to bless others. May we likewise cultivate this habit!


This historical thought was delivered by our upper school students at devotional on 3/14/24. Each week one class leads the student body in prayer, the Pledge of Allegiance, scripture recitation, a meditation, and an historical thought. Family and friends are welcome, Thursdays 8:30-9:05 am.

Belmont is an independent K-12 school in the classical, Christian tradition. In partnership with parents, we invest in students — helping them acquire an education of the highest quality, find joy in life, and become influences for good in the world. If you are interested in receiving updates about Belmont, please subscribe to Exulto here by inserting your email.


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