Christopher Hitchens on George Washington

Though he’s written an entire book on Thomas Jefferson, we came across some quotes of Christopher Hitchens on George Washington and thought they were interesting enough to justify creating an entire page about. For international readers, this first quote won’t make much sense without context.

George Washington, the first president of the United States, has a mythical story that every American child has to hear about in school. The story, almost certainly myth, is that the 6 year old George Washington chopped down his father’s Cherry Tree and, overcome with guilt, bravely approached his father and said “I cannot tell a lie…I did cut it with my hatchet.”

George Washington never owned up to cutting down that cherry tree because there was no tree, and he didn’t cut it down anyway.

Christopher Hitchens

Vanity Fair, December, 1993

Moving on, it’s important to note that Hitchens’ believed that Washington gets too much of the credit for the founding of the nation, at least as the American education system seems, to portray it. Nevertheless, the country did try to make George the head of a monarchy to which the first president declined. For this, Hitchens had the following to say.

Perhaps never before in history had a man of such political power agreed to surrender it: Certainly nobody has ever provided a better illustration of the maxim that one does best to quit when one is ahead.

Christopher Hitchens

Forward to First in Peace: How George Washington Set the Course for America by Conor Cruise O’Brien, 2009

The last of the handful of quotes we came across, Hitchens seems to be holding Washington up in the way he is almost universally regarded in the states. This coming despite attacks by Thomas Paine, one of Christopher Hitchens’ favorite founders. Paine, attacked Washington “Washington as an incompetent general and elitist president who had betrayed Paine for not protecting him when he claimed American citizenship when arrested by France.”  Hitchens, on the other hand, had the following to say about the countries first to be sworn into office as president:

Washington’s achievement was so large, and his execution of it so impeccably and magnanimously timed, that the attacks on him, even by men of the stature of Thomas Paine, appear in retrospect to be petty and irrelevant.

Christopher Hitchens

Forward to First in Peace: How George Washington Set the Course for America by Conor Cruise O’Brien, 2009

Note that even though the subject of this article is deceased, we still reserve the right to make modifications and changes to the content if we discover that, in his vast appearances on various media outlets, we have ommitted more relevant quotes from the journalist and author about the subject. 


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