George Washington

On this date in 1732, George Washington was born. Washington was elected to the House of Burgesses in Virginia in 1758. He was a Virginia delegate to the Continental Congress of 1774, and became commander of the Continental army in 1775. He presided over the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, which adopted a godless constitution, and was elected the first president of the United States in 1789. He was re-elected in 1793 and retired to Mount Vernon at the end of his second term.

Thomas Jefferson recorded that Washington was not a Christian (Memoir, Vol. IV, p. 512). As the largest property holder in the parish, Washington was for a time a vestryman, a political office in Virginia. He occasionally attended the Protestant Episcopal church with his wife Martha, but did not take part in communion. The foremost mythmaker about Washington was Parson Mason L. Weems, whose Life of Washington (1800) promoted the cherry tree story and other disinformation, such as the claim that Washington prayed in the woods at Valley Forge in the hard Revolutionary War winter of 1777-78. (The make-believe scene has been painted, and even appeared on stamps.) Christian propagandists allege Washington wrote a Christian prayer, which is engraved on a bronze tablet at St. Paul's Chapel, New York City. The source is not a prayer, but a business letter to governors, which makes two orthodox, Deistic references (Ford's Writings of Washington, Vol. X, p. 265). Washington's diaries reveal that he seldom attended church, and often traveled on the sabbath. Washington has been claimed by many religions, but kept his private beliefs to himself. “Religious controversies are always productive of more acrimony & irreconcilable hatreds than those which spring from any other source.” — George Washington, letter to Sir Edward Newenham, June 22, 1792. D. 1799.

“Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by difference of sentiment in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought most to be deprecated. I was in hopes that the enlightened and liberal policy which has marked the present age would at least have reconciled Christians of every denomination, so far that we should never again see their religious disputes carried to such a pitch as to endanger the peace of society."

—George Washington, letter to Edw. Newenham, June 22, 1792. The writings of George Washington from the original manuscript sources, 1745-1799; prepared under the direction of the United States George Washington Bicentennial Commission and published by authority of Congress. John C. Fitzpatrick, editor. (Washington, D.C. : United States Government Print. Off., 1931-1944. Volume 32, page 73) Source for most of the biographical discussion of Washington's religion is The Religious Beliefs of Our Presidents, From Washington To F.D.R., by Franklin Steiner.

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

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