George Washington (1732)
It was on this date, February 22, 1732, that George Washington, the first U.S. President, was born into an agrarian Virginia family. He was educated in Virginia and worked as a surveyor before entering the military. He was commissioned a lieutenant colonel in 1754, and the 22-year-old soon saw service in the French and Indian Wars. He left the military in 1759 to tend his Shenandoah Valley lands while serving in the Virginia House of Burgesses. Already chafing under the British yoke, in 1775, Washington was elected Commander in Chief of the Continental Army by the Second Continental Congress, assembled in Philadelphia.
If we discount the "life" penned by religious charlatan Mason Weems, which should have been called The Lie of Washington (1800), the first semi-competent biography, by Jared Sparks (one-time president of Harvard), suffers from the hagiographic view presented by a churchman. Sparks took a flawed man and morphed him into towering marble.
Nowhere in Washington's extant writings and many have been lost, either through careless handling or deliberate destruction does he make direct reference to Jesus Christ, as has been discussed elsewhere. The closest he ever came, according to exhaustive research by Sparks (in 12 volumes), are two indirect references. When Washington was 13, he wrote in a copy book,
Assist me, Muse divine, to sing the morn,The only other reference to the Galilean is in a 1783 letter to state governors, pleading with them to pay soldiers in spite of a financial exigency of the time, in which Washington references, "the Divine Author of our blessed religion." The reference is spurious and may be a forgery: Rupert Hughes reproduces the last page of the letter, proving that it is not in the handwriting of Washington. It was added by a secretary who took down Washington's ideas and polished them by his own lights.
Well, then, how did Washington address God as the end neared? He died on 14 December 1799 at age 67. Two days earlier Washington had caught what modern physicians conjecture was a streptococcal infection of the throat, probably aggravated by the primitive palliative of "bleeding," and died of a combination of shock, blood loss, asphyxia and dehydration. Washington knew the end was near, but sent for no priest. Instead, he reluctantly sent for physicians. It seems certain that his family and friends would have suggested clerical attendance, so Washington must have refused. Otherwise, if his wishes were well known, they would not have suggested it.
As he felt his life slipping away on the evening of the 14th, Washington asked all to leave the room so that he might "spend his last hour with his Maker." Those tempted to make more of this request are reminded that no one disputes that Washington was a Deist.
Thomas Jefferson, who notes in his own diary that Washington rather slyly avoided giving his opinion on Christianity when provided the opportunity to do so, quotes a friend's recollection of Washington thus:
I know that Gouverneur Morris, who pretended to be in his secrets and believed himself to be so, has often told me that General Washington believed no more in the system [Christianity] than he did.Theodore Parker calls Washington "more moral than pious" and, to be fair, it should be mentioned that Washington was never hostile to religion. Indeed, he was one of the first American politicians to favor religious pluralism. In 1790 he wrote that he envisioned America as a country "which gives bigotry no sanction... persecution no assistance.... May the Children of the Stock of Abraham [i.e., the Jews], who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid."
 To those who would argue that those writings which clearly identified Washington as a Christian might have been the very ones lost, I ask that you consider this: those wishing to wishing to portray Washington as a Christian (as opposed to a believer in God, which no one disputes) must acknowledge that pro-Christian writings would be unlikely to cause Washington political or social trouble in life. Only those writings of the opposite nature are likely to have been suppressed, or "lost."
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