The first – and arguably most famous – president of the United States turns 284 Monday. Born in 1732 to a Virginia plantation family, George Washington grew up to become a leader of the American Revolution and a founding father of the United States. He was sworn in as the new nation’s first president on April 30, 1789.
Washington died Dec. 14, 1799, but his legacy as a revolutionary and political hero lives on in the U.S. constitution, history books, museums and, of course, on the face of the one dollar bill. He was also known to his contemporaries for his personal integrity, deep sense of duty and patriotism. In celebration of his birthday, here is a selection of some of Washington’s most famous and inspirational quotes.
1. “If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”
2. “I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.”
3. “There is nothing which can better deserve your patronage, than the promotion of science and literature. Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of public happiness.”
4. “Let your heart feel for the afflictions and distress of everyone, and let your hand give in proportion to your purse.”
5. “Observe good faith and justice toward all nations. Cultivate peace and harmony with all.”
6. “It will be found an unjust and unwise jealousy to deprive a man of his natural liberty upon the supposition he may abuse it.”
7. “Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation.”
8. "It is better to be alone than in bad company."
9. “Few men have virtue to withstand the highest bidder.”
10. “Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire, called conscience.”
11. “Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism.”
12. “To contract new debts is not the way to pay old ones.”
13. “Happiness and moral duty are inseparably connected.”
14. “I go to the chair of government with feelings not unlike those of a culprit who is going to the place of his execution.”
15. “Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence.”
16. “It is infinitely better to have a few good men than many indifferent ones.”
17. “Example, whether it be good or bad, has a powerful influence.”
18. “It should be the highest ambition of every American to extend his views beyond himself and to bear in mind that his conduct will not only affect himself, his country and his immediate posterity; but that its influence may be co-extensive with the world and stamp political happiness or misery on ages yet unborn.”
19. “Government is not reason; it is not eloquence. It is force. And force, like fire, is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.”
20. “It is impossible to rightly govern a nation without God and the Bible.”