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I'm Walter Isaacson of the Aspen Institute i'm here with Professor Joseph Ellis we've been talking about the Constitution let's talk now about some of the people involved and let's start with the indispensable man George Washington he was indispensable there are too many people in American history you can say this about but without him we probably wouldn't have won the war against Great Britain and without him we probably wouldn't have got a constitution of the united states he legitimized what was really an illegitimate meeting and he also helped define with the presidency because and he then more than the document itself Washington's presidency defined what the duties especially in terms of domestic policy were there was nothing in there about a cabinet there was nothing in there to make clear how his own federal appointees could occur although he needed to consent of the Senate for treaties and for such federal employees now where was he from he was from Virginia from Todd from Northern Virginia he was a plantation owner yes small plantation his his father died when he was very young whereas Jefferson and Adams go to William and Mary and Harvard prospectively Washington goes to war mm-hmm and that's his education in the war of in the French and Indian War he's a regiment commander during the 1750s he's lucky he you know had that scene and where all the Napalm is falling around and God never moves Washington was like that he he was in the Battle of the Monongahela and he had three horses shot out from under and bullet holes through his coat his hat a Native American allegedly said stop firing at him the Great Spirit has plans for him he didn't he say something about a bullet whizzing by said I loved this year to hear that sound of bullets whizzing the music of bullets whizzing by and George the second at the time said he wouldn't if he actually ever heard them anyway well but he does not do very well in the French and Indian War loses all the battles but he becomes a colonel he becomes a colonel he becomes a sort of national figure and he's sufficiently visible to marry the wealthiest Widow in Virginia martha custis Washington and that catapults him to the top of the Tidewater aristocracy and a major figure economically and socially in Virginia he's not a direct political thinker he looks he has a neighbor George Mason right down the road but he's aware of the fact that he is losing money to his British creditors and no matter how hard he works and how good his tobacco crop is he always ends up losing money and it's got to be those guys over there that are squeezing me so his first thought is not political its economic the Empire the imperialistic character of the army but he comes to the cause early and he gets summoned to be the commander of the continent alarm he does and he's applied by the way earlier to be an officer in the British Army and they reject him well because we can change it's interesting you know like Washington's response to that was not to say oh my god I'm not worthy it was oh how stupid they are right right and so he becomes the head of the Continental Army heeds impersonal legitimizes the government but he's also a slave older he owns at death 317 slaves he owns actually half of them his wife owns the other half because she's inherited in them from her first husband he does as and he's the only Virginia planter to do this a prominent one he frees all of his slaves in his will and it does a pond the death of his wife she actually frees them only a year after he dies because some of the slaves are remembered to say they're going to poison her and sushi but it does remind us that as great as these people were there are some moral ambiguities oh yeah and then if there was one person that might have been able to move us down the road of emancipation it was Washington if were at the public level in other words laws but he concluded that any effort to raise this issue frontally explicitly put the Republican risk well he was an indispensable person in creating our Republic but he also did leave it to be something that we have to keep working on to make it a more perfect union thank you you