Outward Bound Ideas

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Friday, November 04, 2005

12. Michael Kernan Writing About George Washington

There is a celebrated, though perhaps apocryphal, story about his aloofness. Alexander Hamilton once commented on Washington’s extreme reserve - even with his intimate friends - to the vivacious and brilliant statesman Governor Morris. Morris, who counted himself a close friend of Washington’s, objected, and so Hamilton challenged him to walk up to Washington at a soiree, pat him on the shoulder and say, “My dear General, how happy I am to see you look so well.” If you’ll do this, Hamilton reportedly said, I’ll throw a dinner party for you and 12 of your friends.
Came the soiree and Morris strode up to the great man while Hamilton looked on, and laid a hand on the massive shoulder and gave his hail-fellow greeting.
Whereupon, as historian James Parton put it in his life of Thomas Jefferson, Washington “fixed his eye on Morris for several minutes with an angry frown, until the latter retreated abashed, and sought refuge in the crowd. The company looked on in silence.
At the supper that was provided by Hamilton, Morris said ‘I have won the bet but dearly paid for it, and nothing could induce me to repeat it.’


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