[NEWT-NOTE: Neither the anecdotes, nor the Manuscript are even important.
Washington prayed in public, while General of the Army, while President and wrote OVER 100 prayers in private letters,
Washing mentioned praying many hundreds of times.
Washington professed to pray continually and fervently - not casual comments skyward.
Washington assured others he was fervently praying for them, and asked others to pray for him.
Washington's daughter died with him on his knees weeping in prayer for God to spare her life.
Washington prayed at both swearing's in as President, an one inaugural event and wrote a formal prayer FOR the nation and sent it to the 13 GOVERNORS of the colonies at his stepping doesn't as General of the Army, . . .
. . . and on and on and on.
Anyone who thinks George Washington was any less Christian than Peter, James and John simply haven't read the thousands of his extant letters.
Forget the books written by atheists - whose goal it was to DESTROY the truth greatness of George Washington by "miss-quotes" - "half-quotes" - and "true quotes" out of context and improperly framed by the author.
Love Washington or hate him, but it can't be denied by any one who has READ HIS OWN LETTERS and MILITARY MEMOS: George Washington is the MOST RADICAL Christian of recorded history outside the Bible!
On his website, Paul M. Bessell has assembled the judgments of several historians on Washington's religious habits.
George Washington LEAVES Church of England and Becomes Presbyterian-Baptist:
>> FACT-1: ALL Church of England Ministers in the USA went to England during the war except two, one a crass Son of perdition, an "opportunist" who started a new denomination in the USA of the Churches of England now with out ministers;
>> FACT-2: The opportunist minister declared himself "Bishop" - Bishop White, and his new denomination he named Episcopalian; [The other's name was Washington's neighbor and sometimes pastor Mason "Parson" Weems - more later]
>> FACT-3: NONE of the Church of England ministers served as chaplains in Washington's Army;
>> FACT-4: MANY Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran and Congregationalists, with two Catholic and two Jewish men serving as Chaplains in Washington's Army.
>> FACT-5: Washington, had always been a PROVIDENCE PRESBYTERIAN in doctrine, and a BAPTIST at heart.
>> FACT-6: Washington took Communion with the Presbyterians at Morristown, NJ;
>> FACT-7: Washington, reading the Bible on his own during the winter of Valley Forge, decided he needed to be baptized as an adult - NOT just as a baby - ans was baptized by a faithful Chaplain who had signed up for the duration: Rev. John Gano, from Kentucky;
>> FACT-8: Washington, forever admiring Rev. Chaplain John Gano, had Gano pray the final Prayer officially ending the Revolutionary War. Gano went back to the Kentucky wilderness, Daniel Boone like!
>> FACT-8: The Morristown Presbyterian Church and Rev Timothy Johnes, were also special to Washington's Heart;
>> FACT-9: After Washington became President, with the US Capitol in Philadelphia, he did attend the New Episcopalian Church pastored by Bishop White . . . but mostly because it was the largest Church in town, and it was the ONLY kind of Church and worship his wife Martha had eve known;
>> FACT-10: However, Washington - in his heart - still had the greatest affinity for the humble Kentucky Baptists and the Rural Presbyterians who met in the Orchard at Morristown;
>> FACT-11: George Washington - equally so in his heart - despised Bishop White's enterprising, pretentious, high-faluting, opportunistic, advantage taking ways!
>> FACT-12: George Washington NEVER joined Bishop White's biggest, fanciest Church in the US Capital City;
>> FACT-13: George Washington NEVER participated in Communion served by the money-&-media seeking Bishop White;
>> FACT-14: George Washington NEVER participated in Bishop White's personally contrived "worship practices";
>> FACT-15: George Washington NEVER obeyed Bishop White's "worship orders" to "STAND! - now KNEEL! - now SIT - now KNEEL etc., etc.;
>> FACT-16: George Washington NEVER conversed one single word on God, Bible and religion with the money-&-media seeking Bishop White - by White's own admission:
>> FACT-17: This so bothered Bishop White and his most arrogant flunky - his decades long assistant Abercrombie - that one Sunday when White was gone and Abercrombie in charge, he REBUKED President George Washington PUBLICLY for not jumping up and down like a trained hamster.
>> FACT-18: George Washington, gentleman that he was, said not a word, but NEVER again returned to their "Holy Communion debacle;
>> FACT-19: As far as in known the last 20 years of his life, George Washington ONLY received Communion served by the Presbyterians;
>> FACT-20: As far as in known the last 20 years of his life, George Washington NEVER joined any Church, attended all, and had funerals held in Congregationalist and Lutheran, with messages by fellow War Officers eulogizing him: Richard Henry Lee, etc;
>> FACT-21: George Washington did NOT have a funeral at a local Church in the Mt. Vernon area - such as Pohick Chapel - but was eulogized at home, with fellow Christian and Lodge Members;
>> FACT-22: George Washington was also buried at home with the Scripture "I am the RESURRECTION and the LIFE" engraved on the tomb door;
>> FACT-23: George Washington never technically removed his membership and name from his local Church rolls at Pohick where his parents had attended and raised him all of his life;
>> FACT-24: George Washington also always had a warm affinity in his heart for his neighbor and sometimes pastor Mason "Parson" Weems - who was forced out of the Church of England for supporting Washington and the American cause;
** Not surprisingly, it cost Parson Weems his credentials, his income and invalidated his education that he had traveled to England to receive from the Church of England there.
** In the process of losing his source of income, he also lost the family farm he had inherited;
** Parson Weems, in scrambling to make a living in the meantime, became a "traveling evangelist" like a circuit-riding preacher . . . and wrote little pamphlets on the sins of the day!
** Washington, however, approved for Parson Weems to write a book about him just before Washington died (suddenly without warning) and it became the BEST SELLER in three centuries:
** God honored Parson Weems for DOING THE RIGHT THING!
** Weems was bankrupt at mid-life, but very rich by and by! "Thanks George! President, general, Parishioner, Neighbor and . . . friend!"
>> FACT-25: George Washington died a Baptized Bible Baptist, while holding most strongly to rte Presbyterian Doctrine of Providence - which is Divine Predestination!
Now you know HOW and WHY!
I think it's also useful to look at Washington's own words and deeds. He was a vestryman in his local Anglican church, yet on 15 August 1787 he wrote to his close friend Lafayette that he didn't feel any form of faith to be superior:
I am not less ardent in my wish that you may succeed in your plan of toleration in religious matters. Being no bigot myself to any mode of worship, I am disposed to indulge the professors of Christianity in the church, that road to Heaven, which to them shall seem the most direct plainest easiest and least liable to exception.
[This quotation, and all others unless I mention another source, comes from the George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress website.]
Washington did believe in a deity, and often referred to this God's workings as "Providence," "the Divine Will of God."
Biographer Douglas Southall Freeman pointed out that Washington could speak of this force as "He," "she," or "it," depending on his antecedent.
When friends went through difficult experiences, he advised them to submit to Providence, as in this 1773 letter to a friend whose niece had died:
The ways of Providence being inscrutable, and the justice of it not to be scanned by the shallow eye of humanity, not to be counteracted by the utmost efforts of human power and wisdom, resignation, and, as far as the strength of our reason and religion can carry us, a cheerful acquiescence to the Divine Will is what we are to aim.
[That quotation comes from James Thomas Flexner's biography, 1:244.]
Washington didn't counsel people to pray to God for intervention or comfort. Instead, he advised them to accept what Providence would supply. That philosophy is textbook deism. The distinction between faith in the existence of God and praying to God seems to be lost on many writers today, such as Thomas Fleming in his brief discussion of religion in Washington's Secret War.
Washington didn't seek divine intervention in political matters. On 23 March 1793, in the middle of his presidency, he wrote to former aide David Humphreys:
If it can be esteemed a happiness to live in an age productive of great and interesting events, we of the present age are very highly favored. The rapidity of national revolutions appear no less astonishing, than their magnitude.
In what they will terminate, is known only to the great ruler of events; and confiding in his wisdom and goodness, we may safely trust the issue to him, without perplexing ourselves to seek for that, which is beyond human ken;
only taking care to perform the parts assigned us, in a way that reason and our own consciences approve of.
The surest moral guidance Washington saw was "reason and our own consciences."
D. James Kennedy might be gratified to read this letter by George Washington, of 28 August 1762, to Martha Washington's brother-in-law Burwell Bassett warning him that he ought to have been at Church! [Flexner, 1:237]:
"I was favored with your epistle (letter) wrote on a certain 25th of July when you ought to have been at church, praying as becomes every good Christian man who has as much to answer for as you have. But if we look at what Washington actually did on Sundays, it becomes clear that in this letter he's just joking with a genteel friend about their mutual lack of churchgoing. No daily diary for 1762 survives, but Washington's other diaries from the decade show that when he was home at Mount Vernon he didn't "get me to church every Lord's day,"
Strange it is that you will be so blind to truth that the enlightening sounds of the Gospel cannot reach your ear,
nor examples awaken you to a sense of goodness.
Could you but behold with what religious zeal I get me to church every Lord's day, it would do your heart good, and fill it, I hope, with equal fluency."
but spent more Sundays riding and writing letters. Of the four Sundays in February 1768, Washington noted in his diary that he was at home for three of them and on the fourth "went up to Mr. Robt. Alexanders in order to meet Mr. B. Fairfax & others a fox Huntg."
In the whole year he went to church fifteen times, mostly when he was traveling.
That brings me to an aspect of Washington's religious practice which might trouble both sides of today's cultural debate: those who want to see him as a prayerful Christian like themselves and those who want to seem him as a shining example of deism.
Even as Washington showed little interest in churchgoing and prayer, he treated those outward, visible aspects of religion as important to his public image.
When he was on the road or living in the capital as President, he often went to a local church—i.e., he made sure that people saw him paying respect to religion. Concern for his public image was so deeply ingrained in Washington's sense of self that, really, how people viewed him was his sense of self.
As a military officer, Washington also urged his soldiers to follow religious rituals. In the French & Indian War, he sought a chaplain for his Virginia unit, writing,
"we may at least have the show if we are said to want the substance of godliness." [Flexner, 1:154-5] Later, as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, he often ordered his men to attend church services. For example, on 12 April 1777 his general orders read:
All the troops in Morristown, except the Guards, are to attend divine worship to morrow morning at the second Bell; the officers commanding Corps, are to take especial care, that their men appear clean, and decent, and that they are to march in proper order to the place of worship.
Again, Washington seems more concerned with outward appearance—cleanliness and marching—than with the men's spiritual condition. I can't help but wonder if Washington thought religious rituals and rules were important in helping common men maintain their morals, but that he as a gentleman could be guided by his reason and conscience.
PERMANENT LINK: 10:41
Labels: George Washington, religionReactions:
Thanks for the link. Wednesday, 12 July, 2006 Ed Darrell said...
Jonathan's right -- excellent post.
A few other observations:
1. Yes, Washington was a member of the vestry of his local Anglican church. A vestry is, technically, the little room where the preacher puts on his robes. Idiomatically, being a "member of the vestry" meant one was officially on the rolls of that parish. This was important, because being a member of the vestry was a pre-requisite for holding office or participating in county government in Virginia. Consequently, one may easily read into being a member a religiosity that did not exist in the person described (Jefferson was also a member of the vestry in his parish, but I have yet to find any evidence he continued after 1776).
2. Washington's faith may be best studied if one realizes he was a rather "devout" Mason. Masonic ties were critical to Washington, as well as to his French compadre, LaFayette. Washington wore a Masonic apron to lay the cornerstone of the U.S. Capitol building -- an apron sewn and embroidered by LaFayette's wife. You may want to check with the Alexandria, Virginia, Masonic Lodge, Washington's home lodge, for details from their museum and monument; you may also get some interesting history from the Society of the Cincinnati, located in Washington, D.C.
3. Among other things, Washington generally avoided using the name "Jesus" -- for what reasons we can't be too sure. Whenever anyond proposed to him a proclamation -- say for a day of thanksgiving -- he'd reword it to eliminate references to Jesus or other references that would specify Christianity.
4. Washington avoided taking Christian communion his entire life. This got to be a problem when he was president. Clergy in Philadelphia were concerned about this, since others started to follow Washington's lead. The church muck-a-mucks visited the president and asked that he change his ways. So he took to leaving the meeting when communion was served, and of course, others followed. When the church leaders again appealed to him, he stopped attending services.
5. Originally a supporter of Patrick Henry's proposal to re-establish religion partly in Virginia, by paying clergy from state funds, Washington eventually endorsed Jefferson's Statute for Religious Freedom, because, while Washington thought it the duty of every person to support their own church, he did not care for the strife likely under Henry's proposal. So Washington endorsed separation of church and state when it counted.