King George III asked an American painter what the victorious George Washington would do now that independence had been won.
The painter knew that, just like his patron, millions of people at home and abroad simply assumed — and even hoped — that the general would allow himself to be crowned the first king of America. ‘Twas ever thus, no?
However, this painter also knew of Washington’s actual plans, and so he told King George, “They say he will return to his farm” — in the classical spirit personified by Cincinnatus, the Roman emperor whose example of reluctant (and temporary) harkening to the call of duty was greatly admired by the Founders.
“Why, if he does that,” George III famously replied, “he will be the greatest man in the world.”
No one will ever exclaim such a thing about Arlen Specter.