The True George Washington: Soldier: Temper

Updated February 28, 2017 | Infoplease Staff


There can be no doubt that Washington had a high temper. Hamilton's allusion to his not being remarkable for "good temper" has already been quoted, as has also Stuart's remark that "all his features were indicative of the strongest and most ungovernable passions, and had he been born in the forests, he would have been the fiercest man among the savage tribes." Again Stuart is quoted by his daughter as follows:

"While talking one day with General Lee, my father happened to remark that Washington had a tremendous temper, but held it under wonderful control. General Lee breakfasted with the President and Mrs. Washington a few days afterwards.

"'I saw your portrait the other day,' said the General, 'but Stuart says you have a tremendous temper.'

"'Upon my word,' said Mrs. Washington, coloring, 'Mr. Stuart takes a great deal upon himself to make such a remark.'

"'But stay, my dear lady,' said General Lee, 'he added that the president had it under wonderful control.'

"With something like a smile, General Washington remarked, 'He is right.'"

Lear, too, mentions an outburst of temper when he heard of the defeat of St. Clair, and elsewhere records that in reading politics aloud to Washington "he appeared much affected, and spoke with some degree of asperity on the subject, which I endeavored to moderate, as I always did on such occasions." How he swore at Randolph and at Freneau is mentioned elsewhere. Jefferson is evidence that "his temper was naturally irritable and high-toned, but reflection and resolution had obtained a firm and habitual ascendency over it. If however it broke its bonds, he was most tremendous in his wrath."

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