Recently, I took a trip to Great Falls National Park to enjoy a walk.
Surrounded by enclaves of expensive homes, the park is a virtual wilderness area protected from development by the federal government. Residential development of this site would put a nice dent in the upcoming Social Security short fall.
However, it was not always this way. In 19th century, “Light Horse Harry” Lee established the town of Matildaville there. At one point, the site was considered for a hydroelectric dam. Before that it had been a private amusement park. Most interestingly, George Washington developed it for a canal to advance trade into the Ohio valley.
Approaching the falls from downriver, we can begin to see the problem for shipping up the Potomac River 200 years ago. Up close, this obstacle to American commerce looms larger. Not a problem for the industrious Washington, who planned to build a canal around the obstacle through the forest, thick undergrowth, and exposed rocked.
While the canal operated for several decades, overtime the canal was destroyed by flooding and the superiority of railroads.
When it came to improving human life and strengthening America, George Washington looked to profit and the conquest of nature as the path to progress. Unfortunately, our current political leaders do not hold this Washingtonian view.
In fact, when campaigning for office, they often express that they are running against Washington; while it is their intent to say that they are running against the corruption of the capital, they are in practice running against the integrity of George Washington. It is time that those who seek to govern in the capital city recognize that Washington is not an epithet referring to the city, but a model referring to the man and for the integrity that they should exhibit in public office.
Further Reading: For more information on Washington and The Patowmack Canal, see the Park’s website.