Blog Post — Today is Our First President’s Actual Birthday
George Washington was born on February 22, 1732 in Westmoreland County, Virginia.
in 1743 his father Augustine dies. His half brothers inherit most of the property.
In 1749 he is appointed county surveyor on the frontier of Culpeper County, Virginia
He fights with the British army during the French and Indian Wars participating in battles on what was then the frontier including the battle on the Monongahela River near present day Pittsburgh. During this battle he served under British General Braddock, until General Braddock was killed then he took command. Washington had two horses shot from under him and four musket balls pierced his coat, but he was unharmed. Afterwards in a letter to his brother, Washington writes: “By the all-powerful dispensations of Providence, I have been protected beyond all human probability or expectation; for I had four bullets through my coat, and two horses shot under me, yet [I] escaped unhurt, although death was leveling my companions on every side of me!”
In 1754, after the death of Washington’s half brother Lawrence and his wife Anne’s only surviving child, George, as executor of Lawrence’s will arranged to lease Mount Vernon. Upon the death of Anne Fairfax in 1761, he inherited the property.
After his marriage to Martha Custis on January 6, 1759, he spends the next 16 years as a gentleman farmer. During this time he was also involved in Virginia politics and in 1774 was chosen to represent Virginia as a delegate to the 1st Continental Congress in Philadelphia.
In 1775 he was chosen as a delegate to the 2nd Continental Congress and, at that time, was selected to command the Continental Army.
George Washington wrote in his General Orders of May 2, 1778: “While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion. To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian”
On October 19, 1781 America’s War for Independence is over as General Washington accepts the surrender of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown. It is several years before all British troops finally leave our shores and on December 23, 1783 General Washington surrenders his military commission in Annapolis, Maryland. He returns to private life in Mount Vernon.
In 1789 and 1793, George Washington was unanimously elected President of the United States.
He understood himself to be the President of a Republic in which the people, through their elected representatives in Congress, make laws–not some visionary leader who must define what Progress requires and lead the unenlightened masses there.
Washington took care “that the laws be faithfully executed,” as when he quashed the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794. He did not try to make the laws himself, either by issuing executive orders that circumvented Congress or by regulating what could not be legislated. He left behind no “signature” legislative accomplishments as we would say today. He only used his veto twice–once on constitutional grounds and once in his capacity as Commander-in-Chief.
Washington knew that religion and morality are essential to creating the conditions for decent politics. “Where,” Washington asked, “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?”
Religion and morality are, Washington wrote, essential to the happiness of mankind: “A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity.”
To match his high praise of religion, Washington had a robust understanding of religious liberty. Freedom allows religion, in the form of morality and through the teachings of religion, to exercise an unprecedented influence over private and public opinion. Religious liberty shapes mores, cultivates virtues, and provides an independent source of moral reasoning and authority. In his letter  to the Newport Hebrew congregation—at the time the largest community of Jewish families in America—President Washington grounded America’s religious and civil liberties in natural rights, and not mere toleration.
In his letter to the Quakers, Washington explained that government is instituted to “protect the persons and consciences of men from oppression.” Further, it was the duty of rulers “not only to abstain from [oppression] themselves, but, according to their stations, to prevent it in others.”
Washington’s advice has gone unheeded.
We are told that religion and politics require a strict separation; that religion is a hindrance to happiness and therefore has been gradually stripped from the public square. We’re told that displays of religious faith don’t support the community but are downright offensive to non-adherents. The Supreme Court has supported and extenuated this tortured logic . Since the 1940s, the Court has put religion and religious liberty into a smaller and smaller box. At best, religion is a private good —but one that and should not be presented to others. And religious beliefs have no bearing on public life.
As Washington noted in his 1796 Farewell Address, he dedicated 45 years of his life to the service of his country.
Quotes from Our Founding Father George Washington’s 1796 Farewell Address that need to be remembered today:
- ” . . . there will always be reason to distrust the patriotism of those who in any quarter may endeavour to weaken its bands. (the bands of the union)
- The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government.
- All obstructions to the execution of the laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle and of fatal tendency.
- One method of assault (upon the established government) may be to effect in the forms of the Constitution alterations which will impair the energy of the system, and thus to undermine what cannot be directly overthrown.
- Liberty itself will find in such a government, with powers properly distributed and adjusted, its surest Guardian.
- Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally.
- It (the spirit or loyalty of political parties) serves always to distract the public councils, and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one part against another; foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which find a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passion. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.
- There is an opinion that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the government, and serve to keep alive the spirit of liberty. This within certain limits is probably true and in governments of a monarchical cast patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of the popular character, in governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged.
- Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness – these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens.
- 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.
- . . . the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government.
- The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is, in extending our commercial relations to have with them as little political connection as possible.
- Taking care always to keep ourselves by suitable establishments on a respectable defensive posture, we may safely trust to temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies.
George Washington died on December 14, 1799 from a throat infection called epiglottitis.
By the early 1800’s Washington’s Birthday was second only to the Fourth of July as a patriotic holiday. He was annually remembered by Americans throughout the country with Birthnight Balls and with speeches and receptions. George Washington Parke Custis, Martha’s grandson and the General’s adopted son, wrote that such celebrations were “general in all the towns and cities, the twenty-second of February, like the fourth of July, being considered a national festival, while the peculiarity attending the former was, that its parade and ceremonies always closed with the birth-night ball. In the larger cities… (it) was the gala assembly of the season.” He writes that at the seat of government, the first president always attended. The custom was to not open the ball until Washington had arrived. There are descriptions of rather elaborate attire and decorations for these events.
Many today ask: “Was George Washington a Christian?” These are the words of Nelly Parke Custis-Lewis, Martha Washington’s granddaughter and George Washington’s adopted daughter, who lived with them for twenty years: Is it necessary that any one should certify, “General Washington avowed himself to me a believer in Christianity?” As well may we question his patriotism, his heroic, disinterested devotion to his country. His mottos were, “Deeds, not Words”; and, “For God and my Country.”
What are America’s school children learning about George Washington?