Skip to Main Content

Establishing a Government of Laws, Not Men: George Washington’s Retirement and Responsibility

45 min

Walk-In-The-Shoes Questions
As you read, imagine you are the protagonist.

  • What challenges are you facing?
  • What fears or concerns might you have?
  • What may prevent you from acting in the way you ought?

Observation Questions

  • In what ways did George Washington exercise responsibility to enhance life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for himself and others? What other virtues did Washington demonstrate?
  • What was George Washington’s identity during this time? How do you know that Washington understood the significance of his personal involvement in the establishment of the early republic?
  • George Washington was pleased when contemporaries compared him to Cincinnatus, a Roman farmer who was granted dictatorial powers to defeat invaders before retiring back to his home. In what ways did Washington’s story parallel that of Cincinnatus?

Discussion Questions
Discuss the following questions with your students.

  • What is the historical context of the narrative?
  • What historical circumstances presented a challenge to the protagonist?
  • How and why did the individual exhibit a moral and/or civic virtue in facing and overcoming the challenge?
  • How did the exercise of the virtue benefit civil society and George Washington?
  • What might the exercise of the virtue cost him?
  • Would you react the same under similar circumstances? Why or why not?
  • How can you act similarly in your own life? What obstacles must you overcome in order to do so?
  • Students will analyze George Washington’s character as a leader and his actions of voluntarily surrendering power despite having the opportunity to hold onto it indefinitely.
  • Students will examine Washington’s understanding of responsibility as an American citizen.
  • Students will understand why acting responsibly affects the future of the United States.
  • Students will act responsibly in their own lives to protect freedom.

Student Handouts