Brits Vote for Washington as Greatest Enemy

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No, not our government, the general. (Though they’d be forgiven for thinking so based on some things this administration has done.)

He’s one of our Founding Fathers, but according to the Brits, George Washington is public enemy #1.

Our nation’s first president, who led the 13 colonies in the Revolution against England’s tyrannical rule, was picked by a wide margin in a National Army Museum in London poll as the greatest foe ever faced by Britain.

Washington delivered one of “the most jarring defeat(s)” ever inflicted upon the British Empire at the time, said author and historian Stephen Brumwell, according to London’s Telegraph.

“He was a worthy opponent,” he said.

Washington was selected among five other finalists, who were picked during an online poll that received at least 8,000 votes. The four other potential British foils were Ireland’s Michael Collins, France’s Napoleon Bonaparte, Germany’s Erwin Rommel, and Turkey’s Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

At least somebody still respects winners.

H/t: Stacy McCain.

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  1. Great minds and all of that Paul. I have a post on this for Almost Chosen People on this later in the week. King George III of all people paid the ultimate accolade to the Father of Our Nation:

    “The king asked his American painter, Benjamin West, what Washington would do after winning independence. West replied, “They say he will return to his farm.”

    “If he does that,” the incredulous monarch said, “he will be the greatest man in the world.””

    The first Catholic Bishop in the United States, John Carroll, from his eulogy on the death of Washington:

    “The last act of his supreme magistracy was to inculcate in most impressive language on his countrymen… his deliberate and solemn advice; to bear incessantly in their minds that nations and individuals are under the moral government of an infinitely wise and just Providence; that the foundations of their happiness are morality and religion; and their union among themselves their rock of safety… May these United States flourish in pure and undefiled religion, in morality, peace, union, liberty, and the enjoyment of their excellent Constitution, as long as respect, honor, and veneration shall gather around the name of Washington; that is, whilst there still shall be any surviving record of human events!”

  2. I tend to agree with a captured American sergeant who Arnold asked in 1781 what would happen to him if we captured him. The sergeant replied that the leg he had wounded at Quebec and Saratoga would be cut off and buried with full military honors. The rest of him would then be hung on a very tall gibbet.

  3. Shows how Britain is, sadly, a hollow shell of its past when we see this sort of thing. Fortunately, there is still a minority of people there who still remember the great days of “Rule Brittanica”, and hopefully will pull them out of the mire that is engulfing them.
    Of that list, Washington, Collins and Ataturk were fighting on their own land, in defense of it, or attempting to expel an aggressor – which Brittain was in those cases.
    Bonaparte and Rommell were agressors against England, and I suspect Bonaparte was the worst of the two.
    Had they said Hitler instead of Rommel, then he would have surpassed Bonaparte.

  4. “Shows how Britain is, sadly, a hollow shell of its past when we see this sort of thing.”

    I actually took pride in it Don! A great nation like the UK needs a worthy greatest enemy. A homicidal maniac like Hitler or a jumped up Corsican lieutenant of artillery simply do not fill the role!

  5. In my mind, Washington’s personal qualities set him head and shoulders above the others.

    His greatness was in his possession (in spades!) of all the human virtues. He was not a military genius nor a conqueror, a la Alexander or Atla.

    The image of Washington praying at Valley Forge. Read the history of the War of Independence and I think one must conclude that the Divine Assistance always was with the Continental Army and Congress.

    Supposedly, King George said, “Washington was the greatest man of his time.” when he was informed that Washington refused a crown.

    Michael Collin did not live long enough. The other nominees’ personal attributes pale in comparison to the Father of our Country. Yes, I am a “little” prejudiced.

  6. Kiwi – the difference is in the use of the word “Greatest.” Not in the sense of “largest threat” but as in “Which of Britain’ victorious opponents would be held most admirable?”

    Had the question been “Who was Britain’s worst foe?” then Der Fuhrer would have certainly topped the list, followed somwhere closely by King Phillip II of Spain and Oliver Cromwell, methinks.

  7. Just a point of clarification: the rankings are of military commanders only, so Hitler would not be eligible for this listing. And yes, the #1 ranking in this context is definitely a compliment.

  8. It is as silly to sanctify Washington as it would be to canonize the Duke of Wellington. But as far as the USA is concerned he was the man for the hour, as Churchill, despite his shortcomings, was for England in 1940. Michael Collins is a more ambiguous figure. His statesmanship in the 1921 treaty negotiations is recognized, but his earlier assumption that Ireland’s freedom could only be achieved by bloody revolution has been questioned, and rightly so. Most of the victims of his terror campaign were Irish Catholics – the Royal Irish Constabulary was referred to disparagingly by Ulster protestants as the ‘Fenian Force’ . And the problem with Irish nationalism, that it is intimately bound up with extreme violence, is part of the Collins legacy which should not be glossed over.

  9. The Iron Duke did not have the difficulties that Washington had John in simply keeping his army in existence, a point that I address today at Almost Chosen People.

    Also, unlike Washington, Wellington in his personal relations could be a nasty piece of work, as I am sure his wife would attest.

    In regard to Collins, Home Rule was never going to be granted to Ireland as long as Ulster was prepared to revolt against it, this being graphically demonstrated just prior to the onset of World War I. Churchill’s father’s quip in 1891 that “Ulster Will Fight, and Ulster Will Be Right” demonstrated just how long enduring and intransigient this sentiment was. Independence simply was not going to be granted without fighting, and Collins led the guerilla campaign which was the only avenue the Republicans had since a conventional conflict was hopeless for the Irish. Winston Churchill, who negotiated the peace with Collins, paid him this tribute after Collins’ death:

    “Successor to a sinister inheritance, reared among fierce conditions and moving through ferocious times, he supplied those qualities of action and personality with-out which the foundations of Irish nationhood would not have been re-established.”

  10. One more feather in George Washington’s cap – he indirectly benefited Canada, Australia and New Zealand. After losing her thirteen American colonies, Britain became more lenient towards her colonial subjects.

  11. Don, it’s ironic that Collins was more respected by the British than he was by many of his own countrymen. Having worked in England he had no animosity towards the English and had none of the religious bigotry which sadly still exists in the North. The point I was making was that what Collins settled for in 1921 was effectively what would have happened anyway (by 1914 the HR Bill had passed both houses of Parliament and the Unionists knew that the best they could hope for was an opt-out for Ulster protestants). In British political circles it was expected that partition would not last and that the six counties would merge with the rest of Ireland sooner rather than later.

    This point was not lost on the Ulster Unionists who with an eye on the demographic situation in the six counties, and ever-fearful of a sell-out by Westminster, spent the next fifty years entrenching their position by effectively treating the Catholics as second-class citizens. The hands-off approach of successive British governments (who after all had a duty to ensure that all citizens were treated fairly) unravelled in 1968. Even then, it was nearly four years before direct rule was imposed, by which time NI had descended into a vortex of terrorism and counter-terrorism, the main driving force for which was a newly resurgent IRA. This delayed the inevitable political settlement for over a quarter of a century.

  12. I have long thought John that De Valera set Collins up by sending him to negotiate the peace. He knew that any peace that the British would agree to would be unacceptable to many Republicans which is why he did not go. Collins understood this, which is why as he was signing the peace treaty he said that he was signing his own death warrant. De Valera never said truer words than these:

    “I can’t see my way to becoming patron of the Michael Collins Foundation. It’s my considered opinion that in the fullness of time, history will record the greatness of Collins and it will be recorded at my expense”.

  13. As, Don, I think it has been. I have on my bookshelf biographies of Collins and Dev by Tim Pat Coogan which I think are well-reseached and balanced. When Collins negotiated the treaty in 1921 he knew better than anyone that he was in no position to resume military operations against the British, although he soon had to undertake operations against the anti-treaty faction in Ireland – and it should be remembered that the ‘civil war’ claimed more lives than the so-called ‘war of independence’.

    Fast-forward seventy years. Gerry Adams, who had imbibed Irish republicanism and irredentism with his mother’s milk (but was as much a politician as a terrorist) realized that the ‘armed struggle’ was not only futile but counter-productive, and worked for a political settlement. He was the only man who could bring the Army Council round, and the stark truth was that PIRA had shot its bolt; riddled with informers, compromised by an increasingly sophisticated intelligence apparatus, its ‘military’ operations more and more difficult to execute, its lack of sophisticated weaponry, its lack of funds; this amounted to a comprehensive defeat.

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