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George Washington

“Washington’s arrival in Philadelphia [for the Constitutional Convention in 1787] prompted a civic celebration the likes of which had not been seen since the end of the war. A cadre of his old officers rode out to greet him… Church bells pealed as the hero passed; the leading citizens vied for his favor…

On this festive note the convention commenced its sober business. Only two men were even contemplated for president of the convention: Franklin and Washington. Franklin deferred to Washington, perhaps partly from concern that his health would not stand the wear of daily sessions, but at least equally from knowledge that the project would have the greatest chance of success under the aegis of the eminent general. (Washington’s distance above mere mortals was already legendary. Several delegates were discussing this phenomenon when Franklin’s Pennsylvania colleague, Gouverneur Morris, a hearty good fellow, suggested it was all in their minds. Alexander Hamilton challenged Morris: ‘If you will, at the next reception evenings, gently slap him on the shoulder and say, “My dear General, how happy I am to see you look so well!” a supper and wine shall be provided for you and a dozen of your friends.’ Morris accepted the challenge and did what Hamilton demanded. Washington immediately removed Morris’s hand from his shoulder, stepped away, and fixed Morris with an angry frown until the trespasser retreated in confusion. Hamilton paid up, yet at the dinner Morris declared, ‘I have won the bet, but paid dearly for it, and nothing could induce me to repeat it.’)”

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Pulled from H.W. Brands’s very good biography The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin.

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