George Washington, IMPOSSIBLE TO GOVERN QUOTE Supported

Concerning the accuracy of Founding Father Quotes:

There have been many false quotations of a religious nature attributed to American political and religious leaders. In particular, many authors and webmasters attribute sayings to the American Founding Fathers that appear to have been "derived from their teachings, beliefs, or sayings, and some seem to have been made up out of thin air.

James Hutson, Chief of the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress has written a book titled "The Founders on Religion: A book of Quotations." The cover states:

"Partisans of various stripes from theologians to atheists have long invoked quotations from the founding fathers to lend credence to their own views on religion and politics.


According to about 580 web sites, George Washington stated: "It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible." (7)

This is an impressive statement to be sure, and it certainly gives credence to the belief that the founders of America were all or predominately devout Christians. It is a popular quotation. A search for the phrase "this great nation was founded not by religionists" on returned almost 1,000 hits!

However, nobody has been able to locate this quote in any of his surviving papers. Some claim this is a forgery, but this is an extremely false understanding and rash accusation. [2],[3],[4],[5]

Calling this "supposed quote" of Washington a "forgery" is definitely a 'rush To Judgement'.

Though this is not found in George Washington's writings that are known today, this certainly does not mean he never believed it. It also does not mean he never said it, or not even that he didn't say it 1,000 times!


Please realize, that just as most of what you have said in your lifetime is not in your writings, the same was true for the Founding Fathers. George Washington, Patrick Henry, Sam Adams, and many Founding Fathers were as follows:

> Men who made speeches,

> Men who discussed matters with peers and friends,

> They were NOT philosophers!

> They were NOT who wrote books!

It takes a certain temperament to put all of one's thoughts and beliefs in writing such as Thomas Jefferson, who left us with may volumes of well-though out philosophy and nearly 20,000 letters.


"It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible." (7) This statement also cannot be found in Washington's writings, and seems to have been added along the way as follows:

According to Wikipedia:

"Washington is known to have made some official statements of public piety, but this is not one of them. Though this assertion is very widely reported to have been said in Washington's Farewell Address (17 September 1796), this is not actually the case, as any search of the documents would reveal.

However, this statement has also been presented as having been part of his Washington's speeches as follows:

> George Washington's Proclamation on 1795-Jan-01

> George Washington's Proclamation 1795-Fed-19 as a Day of National Thanksgiving in this form:

"It is in an especial manner our duty as a people, with devout reverence and affectionate gratitude, to acknowledge our many and great obligations to Almighty God, and to implore Him to continue and confirm the blessings we experienced.

It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible. It is impossible to account for the creation of the universe, without the agency of a Supreme Being. It is impossible to govern the universe without the aid of a Supreme Being.

It is impossible to reason without arriving at a Supreme Being. Religion is as necessary to reason, as reason is to religion. The one cannot exist without the other. A reasoning being would lose his reason, in attempting to account for the great phenomena of nature, had he not a Supreme Being to refer to."

End of Washington Quote:

=== In the above paragraph the italicized portion appears to be entirely bogus, and there is no actual record of such a statement ever having been made by George Washington. The first sentence is an almost accurate rendition of one from Washington's official proclamation, being a portion of this segment:

George Washington's Proclamation Feb 19, 1795 as a Day of National Thanksgiving:

"In such a state of things it is in an especial manner our Duty as a people, with Devout Reverence and Affectionate Gratitude, to acknowledge our many and great obligations to Almighty God and to implore Him to continue and confirm the blessings we experience.

Deeply penetrated with this sentiment, I, George Washington, President of the United States, do recommend to all religious societies and denominations, and to all persons whomsoever, within the United States to set apart and observe Thursday, the 19th day of February next as a day of Public Thanksgiving and Prayer,

And on that day to meet together and render their sincere and hearty thanks to 'The Great Ruler of Nations' for the manifold and signal mercies which distinguish our lot as a nation..." It is to be noted that there is genuine piety expressed in this statement, but it is not of any sectarian kind, Christian or otherwise. The last portion of the bogus statement which uses it is a truncation of what might also be another genuine statement.

[SOURCE: George Washington, "In A Life of Washington" by James K. Paulding, (1836)]

In spite of calling the statement in question a "Quote", it would be better stated a "George Washington belief", "George Washington Principle of Government" or a "George Washington Maxim" as it can be easily shown that Washington taught this precept his whole adult life.

> George Washington always believed this;

> George Washington taught this to his men in the Military;

> George Washington believed this before he ever became President, and made his beliefs very clearly in his "Inaugural Address";

> George Washington reiterated them in his final speech, his Farewell Address

George Washington believed this Exactly and Explicitly!

Though this statement cannot be found 'word-for-word' in George Washington's writings, it is a concise, definite summary of his absolute and indisputable principle of Governing. See the portion of his addresses above:

[a] George Washington said "...Reason and experience both forbid us to expect, that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle." - [George Washington, Farewell Address, September 19, 1796].


"Believing as I do, that Religion and Morality are the 'essential pillars' of civil society," - [Letter to the Clergy of Philadelphia, March 3, 1797].

[b] George Washington said "It is impossible to reason without arriving at a Supreme Being." [SOURCE: George Washington, "In A Life of Washington" by James K. Paulding, (1836)]

[c] George Washington said "Religion is as necessary to reason, as reason is to religion. [SOURCE: George Washington, "In A Life of Washington" by James K. Paulding, (1836)]

[d] Washington said it was impossible to build the government and a free society without religion and morality. "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are 'indispensable' supports. [George Washington, Farewell Address, September 19, 1796].

Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice?

And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail

in exclusion of religious principle.

[e] George Washington said "With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles." [Farewell Address]

[f] George Washington identifies this religion of America and American Schools as the "religion of Jesus Christ!" "Above all, the Religion of 'Jesus Christ'." - [SOURCE: George Washington - Speech to the Delaware Indian Chiefs, May 12, 1779].

[g] George Washington also declares how we know about this American Religion: "The blessed Religion revealed in the Word of God will remain an eternal...monument ..."

[SOURCE: George Washington - Draft of First Inaugural Address, April, 1789].


Thus the error of "It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible" (7) is not in content, but in calling it a "quote". It is not a quote.

"It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible" (7) is George Washington's Supreme Principle of Government! And that's a FACT!

References used:

1. James Hutson. "The Founders on Religion: A book of quotations," Princeton University Press, (2005). Read reviews or order this book safely from online book store

2. Barbara and David Mikkelson, "National Capital,", at:

3. "Patrick Henry: Misquotations," God & Country, at:

4. Tom Peters et al., "Misquoting by the Religious Right," at:

5. David Barton, "The Myth of Separation," WallBuilder Press, (1991), Page 120.

6. Dave Barton, "Questionable Quotes," WallBuilders. This is apparently no longer online.

7. Results of a Google search for the full quotation on 2005-NOV-06.

8. "George Washington," Wikiquote, Wikipedia, at: This text is reproduced here under the terms of the GNU General Public License. See the GNU Free Documentation License at:

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