tionGeorge Washington and MacBeth were two historic figures who were
influential in determining the fate of their nation. Both were ambitious
men living during perilous times, yet each charted a different course for
himself and his country when faced with the lure of power.
fulfilled his ambitions by devoting his life to creating a nation, while
MacBeth was ignorant his responsibilities to his country, in turn
destroying it and himself.
Throughout his whole life, Washington yearned for power. As a young
man, he wanted this power as a British officer. Later, as a Virginia
gentleman, he sought power in the forms of honor and wealth. His ultimate
rise to power eventually came when he was pronounced general of the
colonial militia in the war against Britain.
It was under his command that
the colonial militia emerged victorious against the British. However, in
defeating the British another threat to American democracy had been
released. This threat was Washington himself. Washington had the colonial
militia under his control.
He could have easily performed a "coup d'etat"
and seized control of the newly freed nation. However, Washington's
ambitions were not to become a dictator, or king. He believed that power
did not come from controlling others, but from the honor and respect that
was given to him. Washington knew that this power would only come from
subordination to civilian authority. He would be a precedent by being the
first general to turn down his immense powers. With these actions,
Washington assured the success of a new democratic nation.
MacBeth, like Washington, was power hungry and very successful in war.
However, he felt that power came from wealth and control over his
subordinates. As a king, MacBeth abused his power. His first priority was
to secure his own safety, and not his country's. He does this by
This action shows only concern for himself, but not
for his nation. When he visits the Witches, he does not ask about the
future of Scotland, but his own future. As a king, he only kills and
destroys, but does not nurture his country. Scotland suffered greatly
during MacBeth's rule because of his ignorance and refusal to step down and
let someone better qualified take over. The majority of MacBeth's thanes
eventually went to England to seek help to overthrow him.
This led to
MacBeth's own downfall when help finally arrives from England.
Lord Acton once said, "Power tends to corrupt and absolute power
corrupts absolutely". MacBeth epitomizes this quote. He took power and
was overwhelmed by it.
He did not think about the responsibilities that
came with his power, and ruined his life and country. However, Washington
was not overwhelmed by his power. His restraint of it paved the way for
the first truly democratic nation. His willingness to sacrifice this power
brought him the honorable reputation he had sought for his entire life