"... The want of a chaplain does, I humbly conceive, reflect dishonor upon the regiment, as all other officers are allowed..." --George Washington in a letter to Robert Dinwiddie on 23 September 1756 *
"The General most earnestly requires, and expects, a due observance of those articles of war, established for the Government of the army, which forbid profane cursing, swearing and drunkeness; And in like manner requires and expects, of all Officers, and Soldiers, not engaged on actual duty, a punctual attendance on divine Service, to implore the blessings of heaven upon the means used for our safety and defence." --George Washington in his General Orders on 4 July 1775 *
"The Continental Congress having earnestly recommended, that 'Thursday next the 20th Instant, be observed by the Inhabitants of all the english Colonies upon this Continent, as a Day of public Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer; that they may with united Hearts & Voice, unfeignedly confess their Sins before God, and supplicate the all wise and merciful disposer of events, to avert the Desolation and Calamities of an unnatural war:' The General orders, that Day to be religiously observed by the Forces under his Command, exactly in manner directed by the proclamation of the Continental Congress: It is therefore strictly enjoin'd on all Officers and Soldiers, (not upon duty) to attend Divine Service, at the accustomed places of worship, as well in the Lines, as the Encampments and Quarters; and it is expected, that all those who go to worship, do take their Arms, Ammunition and Accoutrements & are prepared for immediate Action if called upon. If in the judgment of the Officers, the Works should appear to be in such forwardness as the utmost security of the Camp requires, they will command their men to abstain from all Labour upon that solemn day." --George Washington in his General Orders on 16 July 1775 * *
"As the contempt of the religion of a country by ridiculing any of its ceremonies, or affronting its ministers or votaries, has ever been deeply resented, you are to be particularly careful to restrain every officer from such imprudence and folly, and to punish every instance of it. On the other hand, as far as lies in your power, you are to protect and support the free exercise of religion of the country, and the undisturbed enjoyment of the rights of conscience in religious matters, with your utmost influence and authority." --George Washington in his orders to Benedict Arnold on 14 September 1775 *
"The Hon. Continental Congress having been pleased to allow a Chaplain to each Regiment, with the pay of Thirty-three Dollars and one third pr month __ The Colonels or commanding officers of each regiment are directed to procure Chaplains accordingly; persons of good Characters and exemplary lives __ To see that all inferior officers and soldiers pay them a suitable respect and attend carefully upon religious exercises. The blessing and protection of Heaven are at all times necessary but especially so in times of public distress and danger __ The General hopes and trusts, that every officer and man, will endeavour so to live, and act, as becomes a Christian Soldier defending the dearest Rights and Liberties of his country." --George Washington in his General Orders on 9 July 1776 *
"That the Troops may have an opportunity of attending public worship, as well as take some rest after the great fatigue they have gone through; The General in future excuses them from fatigue duty on Sundays (except at the Ship Yards, or special occasions) until further orders. The General is sorry to be informed that the foolish, and wicked practice, of profane cursing and swearing (a Vice heretofore little known in an American Army) is growing into fashion; he hopes the officers will, by example, as well as influence, endeavour to check it, and that both they, and the men will reflect, that we can have little hopes of the blessing of Heaven on our Arms, if we insult it by our impiety, and folly; added to this, it is a vice so mean and low, without any temptation, that every man of sense, and character, detests and despises it." --George Washington in his General Orders on 3 August 1776 *
"Let vice, and immorality of every kind, be discouraged, as much as possible, in your Brigade; and as a chaplain is allowed to each Regiment, see that the men regularly attend divine Worship. Gaming of every kind is expressly forbid, as the foundation of evil, and the cause of many brave and gallant officer's ruin. games of exercise, for Amusement, may not only be permitted but encouraged." --George Washington in his circular orders to William Smallwood on 26 May 1777 *
"The Commander in Chief directs that divine Service be performed every Sunday at 11 oClock in the Brigades to which there are Chaplains __ those which have none to attend the places of worship nearest to them __ It is expected that officers of all Ranks will by their attendance set an Example to their men. __
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 __ The Signal Instances of providential Goodness which we have experienced and which have now almost crowned our labours with complete Success, demand from us in a peculiar manner the warmest returns of Gratitude & Piety to the Supreme Author of all Good." --George Washington in his General Orders on 2 May 1778 * *
"... The hand of Providence has been so conspicuous in all this that he must be worse than an infidel that lacks faith, and more than wicked that has not gratitude enough to acknowledge his obligations __ but __ it will be time enough for me to turn preacher when my present appointment ceases; and therefore I shall add no more on the Doctrine of Providence..." --George Washington in a letter to Thomas Nelson Jr. on 20 August 1778 *
"Our Affairs, according to my judgment, are now come to a crisis, and require no small degree of political skill, to steer clear of those shelves and Rocks which tho deeply buried, may wreck our hopes, and throw us upon some inhospitable shore. Unanimity in our Councils, disinterestedness in our pursuits, and steady perseverence in our national duty, are the only means to avoid misfortunes; if they come upon us after these we shall have the consolation of knowing that we have done our best, the rest is with the Gods." --George Washington in a letter to Thomas Nelson Jr. on 15 March 1779 *
"Brothers: I am glad you have brought three of the Children of your principal Chiefs to be educated with us. I am sure Congress will open the Arms of love to them, and will look upon them as their own Children, and will have them educated accordingly... You do well to wish to learn our arts and ways of life, and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ. These will make you a greater and happier people than you are. Congress will do every thing they can to assist you in this wise intention; and to tie the knot of friendship and union so fast, that nothing shall ever be able to loose it." --George Washington in a speech to some Delaware Indian chiefs on 12 May 1779 (This is sometimes MISquoted as "What students would learn in American schools above all is the religion of Jesus Christ." Also, although a written copy of this speech was signed by GW, the text was written by one of GW's subordinates. What GW personally wrote, such as his letter to Marquis de Lafayette on 15 August 1787, has very different implications.)
"We have, as you very justly observe, abundant reason to thank providence for its many favourable interpositions in our behalf. It has, at times been my only dependence for all other resources seemed to have fail'd us." --George Washington in a letter to William Gordon on 9 March 1781 *
"... The foundation of our Empire was not laid in the gloomy Age of Ignorance and Superstition; but at an Epocha when the rights of mankind were better understood and more clearly defined, than at any former period, the researches of the human mind, after social happiness, have been carried to a great extent: the Treasures of knowledge, acquired by the labours of Philosophers, Sages and Legislatures, through a long succession of years, are laid open for our use, & their collected Wisdom may be happily applied in the Establishment of our forms of Government. The free cultivation of Letters; the unbounded extension of Commerce; the progressive refinement of Manners; the growing liberality of sentiment; and above all, the pure and benign light of Revelation have had ameliorating influence on mankind and increased the Blessings of Society. At this auspicious period, the United States came into existence, as a Nation, and if their Citizens should not be completely free and happy, the fault will be intirely their own...
I now make it my earnest prayer, that God would have you, and the State over which you preside, in his holy protection, that he would incline the hearts of the Citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to Government, to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellow Citizens of the United States at large, and particularly for their brethren who have served in the Field; and finally, that he would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all, to do Justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that Charity, humility and pacific temper of mind, which were the Characteristicks of the divine Author of our blessed Religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy Nation." --George Washington in a letter to President of New Hampshire Meshech Weare (Circular Letter of Farewell) on 8 June 1783 * * *
"I resign with Satisfaction... my gratitude for the interposition of Providence, and the assistance I have received from my Countrymen, encreases with every review of the momentous Contest... I consider it an indispensable duty to close this last solemn act of my Official life, by commending the Interests of our dearest Country to the protection of Almighty God, and those who have the superintendence of them, to his holy keeping." --George Washington in his Resignation Address on 23 December 1783 * *
"If they are good workmen, they may be of Asia, Africa, or Europe. They may be Mahometans, Jews or Christian of an Sect, or they may be Athiests." --George Washington in a letter to Tench Tilghman on 24 March 1784 *
"... the moderation & virtue of a single character [George Washington] has probably prevented this revolution from being closed as most others have been by a subversion of that liberty it was intended to establish..." --Thomas Jefferson in a letter to George Washington on 16 April 1784 * *
"Being Sunday, and the People living on my Land, apparently very religious, it was thought best to postpone going among them till tomorrow--but rode to a Doctr. Johnsons who had the Keeping of Colo. Crawfords (Surveying) records--but not finding him at home was disappointed in the business which carried me there." --George Washington in his diary on 19 September 1784 * * *
"Altho' no mans Sentiments are more opposed to any kind of restraint upon religious principles than mine are; yet I must confess, that I am not amongst the number of those, who are so much alarmed at the thoughts of making people pay towards the Support of that which they profess, if of the denominations of Christians; -- or declare themselves Jews, Mahomitans or otherwise, & thereby obtain proper relief..." --George Washington in a letter to George Mason on 3 October 1785 *
"... 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." --George Washington in a letter * to Marquis de Lafayette on 15 August 1787
"The blessed Religion revealed in the word of God will remain an eternal and awful monument to prove that the best Institutions may be abused by human depravity; and that they may even, in some instances be made subservient to the vilest of purposes." -- George Washington in his proposed (draft) first inaugural address to Congress in April 1789 (All that remains of GW's proposed/draft first inaugural address are some clippings that have been pieced together, because Rev. Jared Sparks cut the draft into paragraph-long clippings and sent the pieces to his friends as souveneirs. Further, Sparks excluded this proposed/draft address from his 12-volume Writings of George Washington. Since Sparks told an unambiguous direct lie about GW's church attendance, Sparks' cutting up and excluding this draft speech suggests that Sparks deliberately destroyed other GW records that didn't sound pious enough. Paul Boller * accepts this quote as genuine * in his 1989 book They Never Said It *. Another curious thing about this quote is that the Library of Congress has not posted images of it online in their American Memory collection. However, LoC says that they do have physical posession of the cuttings and that, unlike Washington's Prayer Journal, the cuttings are in Washington's handwriting.)
"If I could have entertained the slightest apprehension that the Constitution framed in the Convention, where I had the honor to preside, might possibly endanger the religious rights of any ecclesiastical society, certainly I would never have placed my signature to it; and if I could now conceive that the general government might ever be so administered as to render the liberty of conscience insecure, I beg you will be persuaded that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution. For you, doubtless, remember that I have often expressed my sentiment, that every man, conducting himself as a good citizen, and being accountable to God alone for his religious opinions, ought to be protected in worshipping the Deity according to the dictates of his own conscience." --George Washington in a letter to the United Baptist Churches in Virginia on 10 May 1789
"While I reiterate the professions of my dependence upon Heaven as the source of all public and private blessings; I will observe that the general prevalence of piety, philanthropy, honesty, industry, and oeconomy seems, in the ordinary course of human affairs, particularly necessary for advancing and conforming the happiness of our country. While all men within our territories are protected in worshipping the Deity according to the dictates of their consciences; it is rationally to be expected from them in return, that they will be emulous of evincing the sanctity of their professions by the innocence of their lives and the beneficence of their actions; for no man, who is profligate in his morals, or a bad member of the civil community, can possibly be a true Christian, or a credit to his own religious society.
I desire you to accept my acknowledgments for your laudable endeavors to render men sober, honest, and good Citizens, and the obedient subjects of a lawful government." --George Washington in a letter to the General Assembly of Presbyterian Churches in May 1789
"On this occasion it would ill become me to conceal the joy I have felt, in perceiving the fraternal affection, which appears to increase every day among the friends of genuine religion __ It affords edifying prospects indeed to see Christians of different denominations dwell together in more charity, and conduct themselves in respect to each other with a more christian-like Spirit than ever they have done in any former age, or in any other nation..." --George Washington in a letter to the Protestant Episcopal Church on 19 August 1789 *
Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th. day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks, for his kind care and protection of the People of this country previous to their becoming a Nation, for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war, for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed, for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.
And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually, to render our national government a blessing to all the People, by constantly being a government of wise, just and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed, to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord. To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and Us, and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.
"... I readily join with you that 'while just government protects all in their religious rights, true religion affords to government its surest support'" --George Washington in a letter to the Reformed Dutch Church Synod in October 1789 *
"... But we should not have been alone in rejoicing to have seen some explicit acknowledgement of the only true God, and Jesus Christ; whom he hath sent, inserted some where in the Magna Charta of our country." --First Presbytery of the Eastward in a letter to George Washington on 28 October 1789 *
"I am persuaded, you will permit me to observe that the path of true piety is so plain as to require but little political direction. To this consideration we ought to ascribe the absence of any regulation, respecting religion, from the Magna-Charta of our country. To the guidance of the ministers of the gospel this important object is, perhaps, more properly committed. It will be your care to instruct the ignorant, and to reclaim the devious, and, in the progress of morality and science, to which our government will give every furtherance, we may confidently expect the advancement of true religion, and the completion of our happiness." --George Washington in a letter to the First Presbytery of the Eastward in November? 1789 *
"It being contrary to Law & disagreeable to the People of this State (Connecticut) to travel on the Sabbath day and my horses after passing through such intolerable Roads wanting rest, I stayed at Perkins's Tavern (which by the bye is not a good one) all day--and a meeting House being with in a few rod of the Door, I attended Morning & evening Service, and heard very lame discourses from a Mr. Pond." --George Washington in his diary on 8 November 1789 *
"... there is nothing which can better deserve your patronage than the promotion of science and literature. Knowledge is, in every country, the surest basis of public happiness. In one in which the measures of Government receive their impression so immediately from the sense of the community, as in ours, it is proportionably essential. To the security of a free Constitution it contributes in various ways: by convincing those who are entrusted with the public administration, that every valuable end of Government is best answered by the enlightened confidence of the people, and by teaching the People themselves to know and to value their own rights; to discern and provide against invasions of them to distinguish between oppression and the necessary exercise of lawful authority; between burthens proceeding from a disregard to their convenience, and those resulting from the inevitable exigencies of society; to discriminate the spirit of liberty from that of licentiousness, cherishing the first, avoiding the last, and uniting a speedy but temporate vigilance against encroachments, with an inviolable respect to the laws." --George Washington in his annual address to Congress on 8 January 1790 * *
May the same wonder-working Deity, who long since delivering the Hebrews from their Egyptian Oppressors planted them in the promised land -- whose providential agency has lately been conspicuous in establishing these United States as an independent Nation -- Still continue to water them with the dews of Heaven and to make the inhabitants of every denomination participate in the temporal and Spiritual blessings of that people whose God is Jehovah." --George Washington in a letter to the Savannah Georgia Hebrew Congregation in May 1790 *
"The history of our Revolution will be one continued lye [lie] from one end to the other. The essence of the whole will be that Dr. Franklin's electrical rod smote the earth and out sprang General Washington. That Franklin electrified him with his rod and thenceforward these two conducted all the policies, negotiations, legislatures and war." --John Adams in a letter to Benjamin Rush in 1790 *
"May the children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants, while every one Shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig-tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.
May the Father of all mercies scatter light and not darkness in our paths, and make us all in our Several vocations useful here, and in his own due time and way everlastingly happy." --George Washington in a letter to the Newport Rhode Island Hebrew Congregation on 17 August 1790 *
"I regret exceedingly that the disputes between the Protestants and Roman Catholics should be carried to the serious & alarming heights mentioned in your letters. Religious controversies are always productive of more acrimony & irreconcilable hatreds than those which spring from any other cause; and I was not without hopes that the enlightened & liberal policy of the present age would have put an effectual stop to contentions of this kind." --George Washington in a letter to Edward Newenham on 22 June 1792 * * (This is sometimes MISquoted as 'I had hoped that liberal and enlightened thought would have reconciled the Christians so that their religious fights would not endanger the peace of Society.')
"We have abundant reason to rejoice that in this land the light of truth and reason has triumphed over the power of bigotry and superstition; and that every person may here worship God according to the dictates of his own heart. In this enlightened age, and in this land of equal liberty, it is our boast, that a man's religious tenets will not forfeit the protection of the laws, nor deprive him of the right of attaining and holding the highest offices that are known in the United States.
Your prayers for my present and future felicity are received with gratitude; and I sincerely wish, gentlemen, that you may, in your social and individual capacities, taste those blessings which a gracious God bestows upon the Righteous." --George Washington in a letter to the members of the New Church in Baltimore on 27 January 1793
[Note: MISquotes such as "It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible" are in the James Paulding section (below).]
"It is with peculiar satisfaction I can say, that, prompted by a high sense of duty in my attendance on public worship, I have been gratified, during my residence among you, by the liberal and interesting discourses which have been delivered in your Churches... I shall experience in my retirement that heartfelt satisfaction which can only be exceeded by the hope of future happiness." --George Washington in a draft? letter to Philadelphia United Episcopal Church on 2 March 1797 *
"I have heard much of the nefarious, and dangerous Plan & doctrines of the Illuminati, but never saw the Book [Proofs of a Conspiracy * * by John Robison] until you were pleased to send it to me. The same causes which have prevented my acknowledging the receipt of your letter have prevented my reading the Book hitherto;-- namely, the multiplicity of matters which pressed upon me before, & the debilitated state in which I was left after, a severe fever had been removed. -- And which allows me to add little more now, than thanks for your kind wishes and favourable sentiments, except to correct an error you have run into, of my Presiding over the English [Masonic] lodges, in this Country.__ The fact is, I preside over none, nor have I been in one more than once or twice, within the last thirty years. __ I believe notwithstanding, that none of the Lodges in this Country are contaminated with the principles ascribed to the Society of the Illuminati." --George Washington in a letter to George Washington Snyder on 25 September 1798 * * * *
"Six days do I labour, or, in other words, take exercise and devote my time to various occupations in Husbandry, and about my Mansion. On the seventh, now called the first day, for want of a place of Worship (within less than nine miles) such letters as do not require immediate acknowledgment I give answers to (Mr. Lear being sick & absent). But it hath so happened, that on the two last Sundays, call them the first or seventh day as you please, I have been unable to perform the latter duty, on account of visits from Strangers, with whom I could not use the freedom to leave alone, or recommend to the care of each other, for their amusement." --George Washington in a letter to James McHenry on 23 April 1799 *
"As I have heard since my arriv'l at this place, a circumstantial acct. of my death and dying speech, I take this early oppertunity of contradicting both, and of assuring you that I now exist and appear in the land of the living by the miraculous care of Providence, that protected me beyond all human expectation; I had 4 Bullets through my Coat, and two Horses shot under me, and yet escaped unhurt." --George Washington in a letter to John Augustine Washington on 18 July 1755 *
"I have in appearance been very near my last gasp__ the Indisposition then spoken of Increased upon me and I fell into a very low and dangerous State__ I once thought the grim King woud certainly master my utmost efforts and that I must sink-in spite of a noble struggle but thank God I have now got the better of the disorder and shall soon be restord I hope to perfect health again." --George Washington in a letter to Richard Washington on 20 October 1761 *
"... the Sweet Innocent Girl [Martha "Patsy" Custis] Entered into a more happy and peaceful abode than any she has met with in the afflicted Path she hitherto has trod..." --George Washington in a letter to Burwell Bassett on 20 June 1773
"I will move gently down the Stream of life, until I sleep with my Fathers." --George Washington in a letter to Marquis de Lafayette on 1 February 1784 *
"Be so good as to present my most cordial respects to the Governor; & let him know that it is my wish, the mutual friendship & esteem which have been planted and fostered in the tumult of public life, may not wither & die in the serenity of retirement: tell him we shou'd rather amuse our evening hours of Life in cultivating the tender plants, and bringing them to perfection, before they are transplanted to a happier clime." --George Washington in a letter to Jonathan Trumbull on 5 January 1784 *
"I expect to glide gently down the stream of life, 'till I am entombed in the dreary mansions of my Fathers." --George Washington in a letter to Noailles De Lafayette on 4 April 1784 *
"I often asked myself, as our Carriages distended, whether that was the Last Sight, I ever Should have of you? And tho' I wished to say no __ my fears answered yes. __ I called to mind the days of my youth, & found they had long since fled to return no more; __ that I was now descending the hill, I had been 52 years climbing, & that tho' I was blessed with a good constitution, I was of a short lived family__ and might soon expect to be entombed in the dreary mansions of my father's. These things darkened the shades & gave a gloom to the picture, __ consequently to my prospects of seeing you again: but I will not repine __ I have had my day." --George Washington in a letter to Marquis de Lafayette on 8 December 1784 *
"Indeed, my dear General, it must be pleasing to you amid the tranquil walks of private life to find that history, poetry, painting, & sculpture will vie with each other in consigning your name to immortality." --David Humphreys in a letter to George Washington on 17 July 1785, regarding the Houdon bust * *
"... It is however a dispensation, the wisdom of which is inscrutable; and amidst all your grief, there is this consolation to be drawn-- that while living, no man could be more esteemed-- and since dead, none more lamented..." --George Washington in a letter to James Tilghman on 5 June 1786 *
"It is also natural for those who have passed the meridian of life, & are descending into the shades of darkness, to make arrangements for the disposal of the property of which they are possessed." --George Washington in a letter to his nephew George Augustine Washington on 25 October 1786 *
"I fear this long trip will be the means of postponing your visit to this Country to the very great regret of all your friends and particularly so to me who would wish to see you once more before I go in search of Elysium." --George Washington in a letter to Marquis de Lafayette on 25 March 1787 *
"... I am called by an express, who assures me not a moment is to be lost, to see a mother and only Sister (who are supposed to be in the agonies of Death) expire; and I am hastening to obey this melancholy call after having just buried a Brother [John Augustine Washington] who was the intimate companion of my youth, and the friend of my ripened age..." --George Washington in a letter to Henry Knox on 27 April 1787 *
"... Mr. [Joel] Barlow is considered by those who are good Judges to be a genius of the first magnitude; and to be one of those Bards who hold the keys of the gate by which Patriots, Sages and Heroes are admitted to immortality. Such are your Antient Bards who are both the priest and door-keepers to the temple of fame. And these, my dear Marquis, are no vulgar functions. Men of real talents in Arms have commonly approved themselves patrons of the liberal arts and friends to the poets of their own as well as former times. In some instances by acting reciprocally, heroes have made poets, and poets heroes. Alexander the Great is said to have been enraptured with the Poems of Homer and to have lamented that he had not a rival muse to celebrate his actions. Julius Caesar is well known to have been a man of a highly cultivated understanding and taste. Augustus was the professed and magnificent rewarder of poetical merit, nor did he lose the return of having his atcheivments immortalized in song. The Augustan age is proverbial for intellectual refinement and elegance in composition; in it the harvest of laurels and bays was wonderfully mingled together..." --George Washington in a letter to Marquis de Lafayette on 18 May 1788 * (In addition to his clear reference to Caesar Augustus, GW also may have been referring to four of his relatives (father Augustine Washington, half-brother Augustine Washington Jr., brother John Augustine Washington, and nephew George Augustine Washington).)
"May you, and the People whom you represent be the happy Subjects of the divine benedictions both here and hereafter." --George Washington to the clergy of Protestant Episcopal Church on 19 August 1789 *
"The want of regular exercise, with the cares of office, will, I have no doubt hasten my departure for that country from whence no Traveller returns [refers to Shakespeare's Hamlet 3:1:89-90, where Hamlet says 'The undiscover'd country from whose bourn No traveller returns']..." --George Washington in a letter to Medical Doctor James Craik on 8 September 1789 *
"... Awful, and affecting as the death of a Parent is, there is consolation in knowing, that Heaven has spared ours to an age, beyond which few attain, and favored her [Mary Washington] with the full enjoyment of her mental faculties, and as much bodily strength as usually falls to the lot of fourscore. __ Under these considerations and a hope that she is translated to a happier place, it is the duty of her relatives to yield due submission to the decrees of the Creator. __ When I was last at Fredericksburg, I took a final leave of my Mother, never expecting to see her more." --George Washington to his sister Betty Lewis on 13 September 1789 *
"I have already had within less than a year, two Severe attacks-- the last worse than the first-- a third more than probable, will put me to Sleep with my fathers." --George Washington in a letter to David Stuart on 15 June 1790 *
"When you shall think with the poet [Joseph Addison *] that 'the post of honor is a private station' [from Cato 4:4, where Cato says 'When vice prevails, and impious men bear sway, The post of honour is a private station'], & may be inclined to enjoy yourself in my shades (I do not mean the shades below, where, if you put it off long, I may be) I can only tell you that you will meet with the Same cordial reception at Mount Vernon that you have always experienced at that place..." --George Washington in a letter to David Humphreys on 12 June 1796 * (It's possible that GW's quotation from the play Cato reflects impatience with 'impious men', similarly to the way GW's 8 November 1789 diary entry seems to reflect impatience with Christians. GW's had led an army in 1794? to suppress the Whisky Rebellion. Also, Paine's Age of Reason (an attack on supernatural religion) was published in 1993-5 (first part; second part). GW's inaction during Paine's imprisonment in Paris in 1993-4 had almost cost Paine his life, and Paine had sent GW a letter accusing GW of ?. Cato was GW's favorite play, and GW had watched it many times and had memorized much of it.)
"... I should... go with as much reluctance from my present peaceful abode [Mount Vernon], as I should do to the tombs of my Ancestors..." --George Washington in a letter to Alexander Hamilton on 27 May 1798 * *
"I am just going to change my scene." --George Washington's words a few hours before his death, as reported by Tobias Lear in a letter to his mother Mary Stillson Lear on 16 Dec. 1799 (unverified: Mount Vernon Ladies' Association of the Union)
"Doctor, I die hard; but I am not afraid to go, I believed from my first attack, that I should not survive it; my breath cannot last long." --George Washington's words to Medical Doctor James Craik a few hours before his death on 14 December 1799, as reported by Tobias Lear in his diary
|1760||6 'prevented from Church'; 13 ws; 20 Belvoir; 27 w||3 AlexCh*; 10 ws; 17 Ch; 24 ws||2 ws; 9 w; 16 w; 23 ws; 30 w||6 ws; 13 w; 20 ws; 27 'Went to Church'*||4 Ch; 11 'Mrs. Washington we to Church'; 18 ws*||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||4/20 = 20%|
|1768||3 AHs; 10 AH; 17 AHs; 24 fox hunting; 31 AHAD||7 AH; 14 AH; 21 AHAD; 28 'In the Afternoon' fox hunting||6 sick; 13 AHAD; 20 AHAD; 27 AH||3 PohCh; 10 AH; 17 Ch; 24 s||1 travel; 8 Ch; 15 travel; 22 Nomony Ch; 29 St. Paul's Ch (VA)||5 AlexCh; 12 PohCh; 19 AH; 26 AH||3 AHAD; 10 Ch; 17 AHAD; 24 PohCh; 31 AlexCh*||7 AHAD; 14 AHs; 21 'At my Brothers'; 28 Nomony Ch||4 Ch; 11 AHAD; 18 s; 25 AHs||2 AHs; 9 AHAD; 16 PohCh; 23 travel; 30 travel||6 travel; 13 PohCh; 20 AHAD; 27 Ch||4 AHAD; 11 'They went away after breakfast -- alone aftds.'; 18 AHAD; 25 AHAD||15/52 = 29%|
|1769||1 AH; 8 AHs; 15 AHAD; 22 PohCh; 29 AHAD||5 AHAD; 12 AHAD; 19 PohCh; 26 AHAD||5 travel; 12 Capt. Ashby*; 19 Col. Lewis*; 26 horse riding||2 AHAD; 9 AHAD; 16 PohCh; 23 Belvoir; 30 travel||7 s; 14 'At Colo. Lewis's all day'; 21 travel; 28 PohCh||4 AHAD; 11 PohCh; 18 AHAD; 25 Belvoir||2 AHAD; 9 AHAD; 16 AHAD; 23 PohCh; 30 AHAD||6 travel; 13 s; 20 Ch; 27 s||3 Ch; 10 travel; 17 AHAD; 24 s||1 Belvoir; 8 AHAD; 15 AHAD; 22 AHAD; 29 AHAD||5 s; 12 s; 19 Ch; 26 s||3 s; 10 s; 17 s;24 'Went to Prayers' Ch; 31 AHAD||10/53 = 19%|
|1770||7 Belvoir; 14 AHAD; 21 AHAD; 28 AHAD||4 AHAD; 11 AHAD; 18 PohCh; 25 AHAD||4 s; 11 AHAD; 18 PohCh; 25 AHAD||1 PohCh; 8 s; 15 AHAD; 22 AHAD; 29 AHAD||6 AHAD; 13 Ch; 20 travel; 27 'At Eltham all day'||3 s; 10 s; 17 Ch; 24 s||1 AHs; 8 PohCh; 15 AHAD; 22 AHAD; 29 s||5 Fredg. Ch; 12 s; 19 PohCh; 26 AHAD||2 AHAD; 9 AHAD; 16 AHAD; 23 AHAD; 30 AHAD||7 s; 14 'At Captn. Crawfords all day'; 21 travel; 28 travel||4 travel; 11 travel; 18 travel; 25 travel||2 AHAD; 9 PohCh; 16 Belvoir; 23 ?; 25 (Tue) PohCh; 30 s||9/52 = 17%|
|1771||6 AHAD; 13 s; 20 PohCh; 27 s||3 s; 10 AHAD; 17 s; 24 AHAD||3 s; 10 AHAD; 17 s; 24 AHAD||7 AHAD; 14 PohCh; 21 AHAD; 28 s||5 'At Eltham all day'; 12 s; 19 Ch; 26 s||2 s; 9 AHAD; 16 AHAD; 23 PohCh; 30 AHAD||7 AHAD; 14 travel; 21 travel; 28 AHAD||4 PohCh; 11 AHAD; 18 AHAD; 25 AHAD||1 AHAD; 8 AHAD; 15 travel; 22 travel; 29 s||6 AHAD; 13 surveying; 20 AHAD; 27 travel||3 s; 10 travel; 17 Belvoir; 24 s||1 AHAD; 8 s; 15 AHAD; 22 AHAD; 25 (Wed) PohCh; 29 AHAD||5/52 = 10%|
|1772||5 s; 12 AHAD; 19 AHAD; 26 AHAD||2 AHAD; 9 AHAD; 16 AHAD; 23 AHs||1 travel; 8 Bassett; 15 s; 22 s; 29 s||5 s; 12 s; 19 AHAD; 26 PohCh||3 AHAD; 10 PohCh; 17 AHAD; 24 'Set out after Dinner'; 31 s||7 PohCh; 14 s; 21 PohCh; 28 s||5 AHAD; 12 AlexCh (ca.?); 16 AHAD; 23 AHAD; 30 AHAD||2 PohCh; 9 AHAD; 16 AHAD; 23 AHAD; 30 AHAD||6 Ch; 13 AHAD; 20 AHAD; 27 PohCh||4 travel; 11 travel; 18 Belvoir; 25 surveying||1 Bassett; 8 Bassett; 15 s; 22 travel; 29 travel||6 s; 13 s; 20 'Company here all day'; 25 (Fri) PohCh; 27 AHAD||8/52 = 15%|
|1773||3 s; 10 AHAD; 17 AHAD; 24 AHAD; 31 AHAD||7 AHAD; 14 AHAD; 21 AHAD; 28 AHAD||7 s; 14 travel; 21 AHAD; 28 s||4 s; 11 PohCh; 18 travel; 25 AHAD||2 Belvoir; 9 AHAD; 16 s; 23 travel; 30 s||6 travel; 13 AlexCh; 20 s; 27 'The two Miss Calverts went up to Church'||4 AHAD; 11 s; 18 PohCh; 25 AlexCh||1 'Calverts all day'; 8 AlexCh; 15 AHAD; 22 AlexCh; 29 AHAD||5 AlexCh; 12 s; 19 s; 26 travel||3 AHAD; 10 PohCh; 17 AHAD; 24 Bassett; 31 Bassett||7 Bassett; 14 Bassett; 21 s; 28 Bassett||5 Bassett; 12 AHAD; 19 AHAD; 26 AHAD||8/52 = 15%|
|1774||2 AHAD; 9 AHAD; 16 AHAD; 23 AHAD; 30 AHAD||6 AHAD; 13 AHAD; 20 AHAD; 27 AHAD||6 s*; 13 'At Fairfield all day'; 20 travel?; 27 PohCh||3 AHAD; 10 PohCh; 17 'Attempted to go to'* AlexCh; 24 s||1 AHAD; 8 PohCh; 15 Bassett; 22 Bassett; 29 Ch||1 (Wed) Ch 'fasted all day'; 5 Bassett; 12 Bassett; 19 Bassett; 26 AlexCh||3 PohCh; 10 AHAD; 17 PohCh; 24 AlexCh; 31 Bassett||7 s; 14 PohCh; 21 AHAD; 28 PohCh||4 travel; 11 Mr. Griffen; 18 Mr. Hills; 25 Quaker Ch & St. Peter's Ch*||2 Christ Ch; 9 Presb Ch & 'Romish Church'; 16 Christ Ch; 23 dined; 30 travel||6 PohCh; 13 AlexCh; 20 'Mercers Sale'; 27 Mercers Estate sale||4 AHAD; 11 AHAD; 18 AHAD; 25 AHAD||16/52 = 31%|
|1775||1 AHAD; 8 s; 15 PohCh; 22 AHAD; 29 AHAD||5 guests 'contd. here'; 12 AHAD; 19 AHAD; 26 PohCh||5 AHAD; 12 PohCh; 19 travel; 26 'Stay'd at Wilton all day'||2 AHAD; 9 PohCh; 16 AHAD; 23 AHAD; 30 'Went up to Alexandria' Ch*||7 s; 14 s; 21 s; 28 travel||4 s; 11 Ch; 18 travel||-||-||-||-||-||-||6/25 = 24%|
|1785||2 ws; 9 w; 16 w; 23 ws; 30 ws||6 ws; 13 w; 20 w; 27 ws||6 w; 13 w*; 20 ws; 27 ws||3 ws; 20 ws; 17 ws; 24 ws||1 travel; 8 w; 15 ws; 22 ws; 29 ws||5 ws; 12 ws; 19 ws; 26 ws||3 ws; 10 AHAD; 17 ws*; 24 w; 31 w||7 travel; 14 s; 21 w; 28 ws||4 w; 11 ws; 18 ws*; 25 ws||PohCh*; 9 funeral; 16 ws; 23 ws; 30 ws||6 AlexCh; 13 ws; 20 visited Lund Washington; 27 ws||4 w*; 11 ws; 18 w; 25 ws||2/52 = 4%|
|1786||1 ws; 8 ws*; 15 w; 22 w; 29 "after breakfast the Gentlemen... returned"||5 w; 12 ws; 19 w; 26 w||5 ws; 12 ws; 19 ws; 26 w||2 ws; 9 ws; 16 'Mr. Lee went away after breakfast'; 23 travel; 30 travel||7 ws; 14 PohCh; 21 w; 28 w||4 ws*; 11 ws; 18 w; 25 ws||2 travel 'About noon'; 9 ws; 16 ws 'forenoon'; 23 ws; 30 w||6 AHAD; 13 AlexCh; 20 w; 27 AHAD||3 PohCh?; 10 ws; 17 ws; 24 ws||1 travel; 8 ws; 15 ws; 22 ws; 29 ws||5 AHAD; 12 w; 19 AHAD; 26 ws||3 AHAD; 10 w; 17 ws; 24 AHAD||3/52 = 6%|
|1787||7 AH; 14 AHAD; 21 ws; 28 ws||4 AHAD; 11 w; 18 ws; 25w||4 ws; 11 ws; 18 ws; 25 ws||1 AHAD; 8 AHAD; 15 w; 22 AHAD; 29 s||6 ws; 13 travel; 20 s; 27 'Romish Church'||3 s; 10 s; 17 Episc Ch*; 24 s||1 s; 8 s; 15 s; 22 s; 29 'whole day at Mr. Morris's'||5 s; 12 s; 19 s; 26 s||2 s; 9 s; 16 'Wrote many letters in the forenoon'; 23 ws; 30 w||7 ws; 14 w; 21 AH; 28 PohCh||4 ws; 11 ws; 18 ws; 25 ws||2 AHAD; 9 ws; 16 w; 23 AHAD; 30 ws||3/52 = 6%|
|1788||6 ws; 13 ws; 20 ws; 27 AHAD||3 ws; 10 AHAD; 17 AHAD; 24 ws||2 AHAD; 9 ws; 16 w; 23 ws; 30 ws||6 w; 13 AlexCh; 30 ws; 27 w||4 w; 11 AHAD*; 18 AHAD; 25 ws||1 canal; 8 w; 15 ws; 22 ws; 29 w||6 ws; 13 ws; 20 ws; 27 w||3 AHAD; 10 w; 17 w; 24 ws; 31 ws||7 ws; 14 ws; 21 ws; 28 w||5 w; 12 w*; 19 ws; 26 PohCh||2 ws; 9 AHAD; 16 ws; 23 w; 30 ws||7 w; 14 w; 21 ws; 28 w||2/52 = 4%|
|1789||4 w; 11 w; 18 w; 25 ws||1 ws||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||4 PaulCh; 11 AHAD; 18 Episc Ch* & Congreg Ch; 25 Episc Ch* & Congreg Ch||1 Episc Ch* & Presb? Ch; 8 Ch 'lame discourses'; 15 PaulCh; 22 PaulCh; 29 PaulCh||6 PaulCh; 13 PaulCh; 20 PaulCh; 25 (Fri) PaulCh; 27 AHAD weather||11/18 = 61%|
|1790||3 PaulCh; 10 PaulCh; 17 AHAD 'not well'; 24 PaulCh; 31 PaulCh||7 PaulCh; 14 AHAD; 21 PaulCh; 28 PaulCh||7 AHAD; 14 PaulCh; 21 PaulCh; 28 PaulCh||4 AHAD 'unwell'; 11 TriCh; 18 AHAD weather; 25 TriCh||2 TriCh; 9 AHAD 'bad cold'*||27 TriCh||4 TriCh; 11 AHAD||-||-||-||-||-||15/22 = 68%|
|1791||-||-||27 travel||10 travel; 17 dinner; 24 travel||1 travel; 8 Ch AM & PM; 15 Ch; 22 travel; 29 travel||5 travel; 12 travel; 13-27 'remained at home'||3 Dutch language Ch 'no danger'*||-||-||-||-||-||3/14 = 21%|
- = no diary entry;
Ch = Church;
w = weather records but nothing about church;
s = social records but nothing about church;
* = interesting details;
AH = 'At Home' (GW's phrase);
AHAD = 'At Home All Day' (GW's phrase);
Mount Vernon churches: PohCh = Pohick Church * *, AlexCh = Alexandria Christ Church * *
Philadelphia churches: Christ Church * *, St. Peter's Church * *, 'Romish Church' = St. Mary's Church (Roman Catholic)
Manhattan churches: PaulCh = St. Paul's Chapel * * * *, TriCh = Trinity Church * *
Belvoir = home of GW's friend George William Fairfax * *
Eltham = home of GW's brother-in-law (via GW's wife's sister) Burwell Bassett
Lewis = Colonel Fielding Lewis, GW's brother-in-law (via GW's sister Betty)
On many Sundays, GW records the weather, social visitors, or where he ate dinner, but he doesn't say anything about church. That seems to indicate fairly clearly that GW did not attend church on those ambiguous Sundays, since on other Sundays he notes excuses such as 'prevented from church', "Mrs. Washington we[nt] to Church", 'The two Miss Calverts went up to Church', 'Attempted to go', sickness, etc. Also, GW frequently wrote 'at home all day', once for 12 Sundays in a row (1773-4). Being 'at home all day' every Sunday for many long stretches does not seem consistent with the idea that "if he didn't say anything about church, it was because he went habitually and only made a note when he couldn't attend".
However, GW's diaries in 1784 and after 1791 seem too ambiguous and/or incomplete to use as a church attendance record. GW's 1784 diary does not mention going to church at all. After 1791, GW's diary is mostly about the weather, but he does mention going to church on 5 October 1794, 2 June 1799, and 17 November 1799. His letter James McHenry on 23 April 1799 suggests that he rarely went to church after the end of his presidency in March 1797.
Summary: GW's diaries show that he attended church 20% of Sundays before the Revolution, 5% of Sundays between the Revolution and becoming US President, 54% of Sundays while he was US President, and 18% of Sundays altogether. His diaries include accounts of almost 13 full years of Sundays, spread from age 28 to age 59. His complete attendance rate as an adult was probably lower, since keeping a diary and going to church are both leisure activities. GW's low attendance rate seems especially meaningful because GW was a vestryman of Truro and Fairfax parishes * * from ~1763 to ~1782 and also because failing to attend church on Sundays and holidays was a crime * * * * * in Virginia until ~1776.
"This diary was kept for many years with much particularity. A Sabbath day rarely occurs, in which it is not recorded that he went to church..." --Rev. Jared Sparks in Writings of George Washington 12:401 * * in ~1837 (GW's own diary shows that he only attended church on 18% of Sundays, as noted above. Also, Sparks cut up GW's proposed first inaugural address into paragraph-long souveneirs and destroyed other GW records, probably including several years of GW's diaries. Given Sparks' direct lie here, the topic of the lie, and Sparks' occupation as a Reverend, it seems very likely that Sparks' censorship destroyed more of GW's non-pious-sounding writings than GW's pious-sounding writings.)
"Doctor [Benjamin] Rush tells me that he had it from [US House of Representatives Chaplain] Asa Green, that when the clergy addressed General Washington on his departure from the Government, it was observed in their consultation, that he had never, on any occasion, said a word to the public which showed a belief in the Christian religion, and they thought they should so pen their address, as to force him at length to declare publicly whether he was a Christian or not. They did so. However, he observed, the old fox was too cunning for them. He answered every article of their address particularly except that, which he passed over without notice. Rush observes, he never did say a word on the subject in any of his public papers, except in his valedictory letter to the Governors of the States, when he resigned his commission in the army, wherein he speaks of 'the benign influence of the Christian religion.' 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 of that system than he himself did." --Thomas Jefferson in his diary on 1 February 1799
"'It is (said he) too probable that no plan we propose will be adopted. Perhaps another dreadful conflict is to be sustained. If, to please the people, we offer what we ourselves disprove, how can we afterwards defend our work? Let us raise a standard to which the wise and the honest can repair. The event is in the hand of God.' -- this was the patriot voice of Washington; and this is the constant tenor of his conduct." --Gouverneur Morris in his An Oration upon the Death of General Washington on 31 December 1799, recalling what George Washington said at the Constitutional Convention in 1787 * *
"Without making ostentatious professions of religion, he was a sincere believer in the Christian faith, and a truly devout man." --John Marshall in Life of George Washington * * * * (1804-7 edition?, unverified), according to Benson Lossing in Washington and the American Republic * * in 1870
"Herewith I send your Copy of the American Edition of [Hugh] Blair's Sermons [ * * * * ], which you were so good as to patronize; and for which you paid..." --Mason Locke Weems in a letter to George Washington in 1795 *
"I was t other day in Norfolk where a my particular friend of mine Capt'n. James Tucker a man of merit and money, beg'd me to ask a favor of you which we both concluded your goodness w'd. readily grant.
Capt'n. Tucker is a wealthy Merchant of Norfolk, largely in the importing line. He has lately been applied to for a quantity of Merchandize on credit by a Gentleman who calls himself Major James Welch who says moreover that he is the man who purchas'd your excellency's Western lands of which report says you sold so much some time ago. Capt'n. Tucker wishes to know whether a Major Welch did purchase your excellency's lands or a part of them, and whether he met your excellency's expectations in the way of Payment.
If your excellency will condescend to honor me with a line on this subject it will be very gratefully acknowledg'd both by Capt'n. Tucker & his and your excellency's much oblig'd M. L. Weems." --Mason Locke Weems in a letter to George Washington on 26 March 1799 * *
"Your letter of the 26th. inst't came duly to hand. In answer thereto, I inform you that, my sale to Mr. James Welch, of the Lands I hold upon the Great Kanhawa, is conditional only. _
He has a Lease of them at a certain annual Rent, which if punctually paid, for Six years, and at the end thereof shall pay one fourth of the sum fixed on as the value of them; and the like sum by Instalments the three following years, and this without any let or hindrance that then, and in that case only, I am to convey them in Fee simple _ not else.
This is the nature of the agreemt. between Mr. Welch and... George Washington.
PS. It may not be amiss to add that the first years Rent (due in Jay. last) is not yet paid" --George Washington in a letter to Mason Locke Weems on 31 March 1799 * *
"For your kind compliment, 'The Immortal Mentor,' I beg you to accept my best thanks. I have perused it with singular satisfaction; and hesitate not to say that it is, in my opinion at least, an invaluable compilation. I cannot but hope that a book whose contents do such credit to its title, will meet a very generous patronage. Should that patronage equal my wishes, you will have no reason to regret that you ever printed the Immortal Mentor." --George Washington on 3 July 1799, recommending Weems' 1796 book Immortal Mentor: or Man's unerring Guide to a Healthy, Wealthy, and Happy Life, according to a fly-leaf in some copies of the book (The Library of Congress catalog states the "'Recomendation by George Washington' mounted on fly-leaf was probably 'an addition after the first issuance of the book'", quoting Paul Leicester Ford's 1929 book Mason Locke Weems, his works and ways (v1p248). William Federer in America's God and Country (1996) apparently falsely states "George Washington wrote this recommendation in the inside page of his copy" which is in the "Library of Congress Rare Book Collection".)
"... the following anecdote, related to me twenty years ago by an aged lady, who was a distant relative, and, when a girl, spent much of her time in the family... 'When George,' said she, 'was about six years old, he was made the wealthy master of a hatchet! of which, like most little boys, he was immoderately fond, and was constantly going about chopping everything that came in his way. One day, in the garden, where he often amused himself hacking his mother's pea-sticks, he unluckily tried the edge of his hatchet on the body of a beautiful young English cherry-tree, which he barked so terribly, that I don't believe the tree ever got the better of it. The next morning the old gentleman, finding out what had befallen his tree, which, by the by, was a great favourite, came into the house; and with much warmth asked for the mischievous author, declaring at the same time, that he would not have taken five guineas for his tree. Nobody could tell him anything about it. Presently George and his hatchet made their appearance. 'George,' said his father, 'do you know who killed that beautiful little cherry tree yonder in the garden?' This was a tough question; and George staggered under it for a moment; but quickly recovered himself: and looking at his father, with the sweet face of youth brightened with the inexpressible charm of all- conquering truth, he bravely cried out, 'I can't tell a lie, Pa; you know I can't tell a lie. I did cut it with my hatchet.'--'Run to my arms, you dearest boy,' cried his father in transports, 'run to my arms; glad am I, George, that you killed my tree; for you have paid me for it a thousand fold. Such an act of heroism in my son is more worth than a thousand trees, though blossomed with silver, and their fruits of purest gold.'" --Mason Locke Weems in his Life of Washington * (not in 1800-1805 editions)
"In the winter of '77, while Washington, with the American army, lay encamped at Valley Forge, a certain good old friend, of the respectable family and name of [Isaac] Potts [*], if I mistake not, had occasion to pass through the woods near headquarters. Treading in his way along the venerable grove, suddenly he heard the sound of a human voice, which, as he advanced, increased on his ear; and at length became like the voice of one speaking much in earnest. As he approached the spot with a cautious step, whom should he behold, in a dark natural bower of ancient oaks, but the commander in chief of the American armies on his knees at prayer! Motionless with surprise, friend Potts continued on the place till the general, having ended his devotions, arose; and, with a countenance of angelic serenity, retired to headquarters Friend Potts then went home, and on entering his parlour called out to his wife, 'Sarah! my dear Sarah! all's well! all's well! George Washington will yet prevail!'
'What's the matter, Isaac?' replied she, 'thee seems moved.'
'Well, if I seem moved, 'tis no more than what I really am. I have this day seen what I never expected. Thee knows that I always thought that the sword and the gospel were utterly inconsistent, and that no man could be a soldier and a Christian at the same time. But George Washington has this day convinced me of my mistake."
He then related what he had seen, and concluded with this prophetical remark-- 'If George Washington be not a man of God, I am greatly deceived--and still more shall I be deceived, if God do not, through him, work out a great salvation for America.'" --Mason Locke Weems in his Life of Washington (not in 1800-1815 editions)
"I knew personally the celebrated Quaker Potts who saw Gen'l Washington alone in the woods at prayer. I got it from himself, myself. Weems mentioned it in his history of Washington, but I got it from the man myself, as follows: I was riding with him (Mr. Potts) in Montgomery County, Penn'a near to the Valley Forge, where the army lay during the war of ye Revolution. Mr. Potts was a Senator in our State & a Whig. I told him I was agreeably surprised to find him a friend to his country as the Quakers were mostly Tories. He said...
'In that woods (pointing to a close in view), I heard a plaintive sound as, of a man at prayer. I tied my horse to a sapling & went quietly into the woods & to my astonishment I saw the great George Washington on his knees alone, with his sword on one side and his cocked hat on the other. He was at Prayer to the God of the Armies, beseeching to interpose with his Divine aid, as it was ye Crisis, & the cause of the country, of humanity & of the world.
Such a prayer I never heard from the lips of man. I left him alone praying.
I went home & told my wife. I saw a sight and heard today what I never saw or heard before, and just related to her what I had seen & heard & observed. We never thought a man c'd be a soldier & a Christian, but if there is one in the world, it is Washington. She also was astonished. We thought it was the cause of God, & America could prevail.'" --Rev. Nathaniel Randolph Snowden, Diary and Remembrances (unverified: Original Manuscript at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania; Call no. PHi.Am.1561-1568) *
"'PARSON' WEEMS' celebration of George Washington first appeared in 1800, and ran through as many as 70 editions before it died a natural and deserved death. It died because it had done its work with complete effectiveness. Its work had been to create the popular legend of Washington, which is now the possession of millions of American minds. Weems was neither a 'Parson,' nor 'formerly rector of Mt. Vernon parish,' but a professional writer of tracts and biographies. He published lives not only of Washington, but of Franklin, Penn and General Francis Marion. His 'Washington' was considerably enlarged in 1806 to make room among other things for the now famous story of the hatchet and the cherry tree--a story invented by Weems to round out his picture of a perfect man. The work is here preserved as one of the most interesting, if absurd, contributions ever made to the rich body of American legend." --editor Mark Van Doren in his preface to the 1927 edition * (Note: It seems more likely than not that Weems had been ordained (see above). Also, although there was no 'Mt. Vernon parish', Weems perhaps did preach sometimes at Pohick Church (which was technically in Truro Parish, about 6 miles from Mt. Vernon). Weems later became a full-time writer and itinerant book salesman.)
"Though Weems styled himself 'formerly Rector of Mount-Vernon Parish' on the title page of his Life of Washington in 1808, as substantiated by his temporary incumbencies at Pohick Church, the only basis heretofore given for imputing an actual acquaintance between Washington and himself is, I believe, erroneous. For a citation often used from the former's Diary evidently applies to Mason's cousin, Rev. John Weems, who was ordained by Bishop White, June 24, 1787, and was 'the servant of his but one Parish over his ministerial life of four and thirty years.'" --Paul Leicester Ford in his book Mason Locke Weems * * * in 1929
"There are few men of any kind, and still fewer the world calls great, who have not some of their virtues eclipsed by corresponding vices. But this was not the case of Gen. Washington. He had religion without austerity, dignity without pride, modesty without diffidence, courage without rashness, politeness without affectation, affability without familiarity. His private character, as well as his public one, will bear the strictest scrutiny. He was punctual in all his engagements; upright and honest in his dealings; temperate in his enjoyments; liberal and hospitable to an eminent degree; a lover of order; systematical and methodical in all his arrangements. He was the friend of morality and religion; steadily attended on public worship; encouraged and strengthened the hands of the clergy. In all his public acts, he made the most respectful mention of Providence; and, in a word, carried the spirit of piety with him both in his private life and public administration." --David Ramsay in Life of George Washington * in 1807/1811?
"I loved and revered the man [GW], but it was his humanity only that I admired. In his divinity I never believed." --John Adams on 15 April 1808
"... I think I knew General Washington intimately and thoroughly; and were I called on to delineate his character, it should be in terms like these.
His mind was great and powerful, without being of the very first order; his penetration strong, though not so acute as that of a Newton, Bacon or Locke; and as far as he saw, no judgment was ever sounder. it was slow in operation, being little aided by invention or imagination, but sure in conclusion. hence the common remark of his officers, of the advantage he derived from councils of war, where hearing all suggestions, he selected whatever was best; and certainly no General ever planned his battles more judiciously. but if deranged during the course of the action, if any member of his plan was dislocated by sudden circumstances, he was slow in re-adjustment. the consequence was that he often failed in the field, & rarely against an enemy in station, as at Boston & York. he was incapable of fear, meeting personal dangers with the calmest unconcern. perhaps the strongest feature in his character was prudence, never acting until every circumstance, every consideration, was maturely weighed; refraining if he saw a doubt, but, when once decided, going through with his purpose whatever obstacles opposed. his integrity was most pure, his justice the most inflexible I have ever known, no motives of interest or consanguinity, of friendship or hatred, being able to bias his decision.
in his supeness[?] he was honorable, but exact, liberal in intuions[?] to whatever promised utility, but frowning and very unyielding on all visionary projects, and all unworthy calls on his charity. his heart was not warm in it's affections; but he exactly calculated he was indeed, in every sense of the words, a wise, a good, & a great man. his temper was naturally high toned; but reflection & resolution had obtained a firm and habitual ascendency over it. if ever however it broke its bonds he was most tremendous in his wrath. in his expenses he was liberal[?] honorable, but exact; liberal in contributions to whatever promised utility; but frowning and unyielding on all visionary projects and all unworthy calls on his charity. his heart was not warm in it's affections; but he exactly calculated every man's value, and gave him a solid esteem proportioned to it. his person, you know, was fine, his stature exactly what one would wish, his deportment easy, erect and noble; the best horseman of his age, and the most graceful figure that could be seen on horseback. altho' in the circle of his friends, where he might be unreserved with safety, he took a free share in conversation, his colloquial talents were not above mediocrity, possessing neither copiousness of ideas, nor fluency of words. in public when called on for a sudden opinion, he was unready, short and embarrassed. yet he wrote readily, rather diffusely, in an easy & correct style. this he had acquired by conversation with the world, for his education was merely reading, writing and common arithmetic, to which he added surveying at a later day. his time was employed in action chiefly, reading little, and that only in Agriculture and English history. his correspondence became necessarily extensive, and, with journalizing his agricultural proceedings, occupied most of his leisure hours within doors. on the whole, his character was, in its mass perfect, in nothing bad, in few points indifferent; and it may truly be said, that never did nature and fortune combine more perfectly to make a man great, and to place him in the same constellation with whatever worthies have merited from man an everlasting remembrance. remembrance. for his was the singular destiny and merit of leading the armies of his country successfully through an arduous war, for the establishment of it's independence; of conducting it's councils through the birth of a government, new in it's forms & principles, until it had settled down into a quiet and orderly train, and of scrupulously obeying the Laws through the whole of his career, civil and military, of which the history of the world furnishes no other example...
These are my opinions of General Washington, which I would vouch at the judgment seat of god, having been formed on an acquaintance of 30 years. I served with him in the Virginia legislature from 1769 to the revolutionary war, and again a short time in Congress until he left us to take command of the army. during the war and after it we corresponded occasionally, and in the 4 years of my continuance in the office of Secretary of state, our intercourse was daily, confidential and cordial. after I retired from that office great and malignant pains were taken by our Federal-monarchists and not entirely without effect, to make him view me as a theorist, holding French principles of government, which would lead infallibly to licentiousness and anarchy. and to this he listened the more easily, from my known disapprobation of the British treaty. I never saw him afterwards, or these malignant insinuations should have been dissipated before his just judgment as mists before the sun. I felt on his death, with my countrymen, that 'verily a great man hath fallen this day in Israel' [2 Samuel 3:38 says ' a great man fallen this day in Israel']..." --Thomas Jefferson in a letter to Walter Jones on 2 Jan 1814 * * * * * * *
"The father of our country, whenever in this city, as well during the revolutionary war as in his Presidency, attended divine service in Christ Church of this city [Philadelphia]; except during one winter; when, being here for the taking of measures with Congress towards the opening of the next campaign, he rented a house near to St Peter's Church, then in parochial union with Christ Church. During that season he attended regularly at St Peter's. His behaviour was always serious and attentive; but, as your letter seems to intend an inquiry on the point of kneeling during the service, I owe it to the truth to declare, that I never saw him in the said attitude. During his presidency, our vestry provided him with a pew, ten yards in front of the desk. It was habitually occupied by himself, by Mrs Washington, who was regularly a communicant, and by his secretaries.
Although I was often in company with this great man, and had the honor of dining often at his table, I never heard any thing from him that could manifest his opinions on the subject of religion. I knew no man who seemed so carefully to guard against the discoursing of himself or of his acts, or of any thing pertaining to him: and it has occasionally occurred to me, when in his company, that if a stranger to his person were present, he would never have known from any thing said by the President, that he was conscious of having distinguished himself in the eyes of the world. His ordinary behaviour, although unexceptionably courteous, was not such as to encourage obtrusion on what he had on his mind.
Within a few days of his leaving the presidential chair, our vestry waited on him with an address prepared and delivered by me. In his answer, he was pleased to express himself gratified by what he had heard from our pulpit; but there was nothing that committed him relatively to religious theory. Within a day or two of the above, there was another address by many ministers of different persuasions; being prepared by Dr Green and delivered by me. It has been a subject of opposite statements, owing to a passage in the posthumous works of Mr Jefferson. He says, giving Dr Rush for his author, who is said to have it from Dr Green, that the said address was intended to elicit the opinion of the President on the subject of the Christian religion. Dr Green has denied this in his periodical work called ' The Christian Advocate,' and his statement is correct. Dr Rush may have misunderstood Dr Green, or the former may have been misunderstood by Mr Jefferson; or the whole may have originated with some individual of the assembled ministers, who mistook his own conceptions for the sense of the body. The said two documents are in the Philadelphia newspapers of the time.
On a thanksgiving day appointed by the President for the suppression of the western insurrection, I preached a sermon in his presence. The subject was the Connection between Religion and Civil Happiness. It was misrepresented in one of our newspapers. This induced the publishing of the sermon, with a dedication to the President, pointedly pleading his proclamation in favor of the connection affirmed. It did not appear that he disallowed the use made of his name. Although, in my estimation, the entire separation between Christianity and civil government would be a relinquishment of religion in the abstract; yet, that this was the sense of the President, is more than I can infer." --Rev. William White in a letter to Rev. B. C. C. Parker on 28 November 1832 *, as reported by Rev. Bird Wilson in Memoir of Bishop White in 1839, and as reported (except for a few differences in punctuation and wording) by Rev. Jared Sparks in Writings of George Washington 12:408 * * * in ~1837
He attended the church at Alexandria, when the weather and roads permitted a ride of ten miles. In New York and Philadelphia he never omitted attendance at church in the morning, unless detained by indisposition. The afternoon was spent in his own room at home; the evening with his family, and without company. Sometimes an old and intimate friend called to see us for an hour or two; but visiting and visitors were prohibited for that day. No one in church attended to the services with more reverential respect. My grandmother, who was eminently pious, never deviated from her early habits. She always knelt. The General, as was then the custom, stood during the devotional parts of the service. On communion Sundays, he left the church with me, after the blessing, and returned home, and we sent the carriage back for my grandmother.
It was his custom to retire to his library at nine or ten o'clock, where he remained an hour before he went to his chamber. He always rose before the sun, and remained in his library until called to breakfast. I never witnessed his private devotions. I never inquired about them. I should have thought it the greatest heresy to doubt his firm belief in Christianity. His life, his writings, prove that he was a Christian. He was not one of those, who act or pray, 'that they may be seen of men.' He communed with his God in secret.
My mother resided two years at Mount Vernon, after her marriage with John Parke Custis, the only son of Mrs. Washington. I have heard her say, that General Washington always received the sacrament with my grandmother before the revolution. When my aunt, Miss Custis, died suddenly at Mount Vernon, before they could realize the event, he knelt by her and prayed most fervently, most' affectingly, for her recovery. Of this I was assured by Judge Washington's mother, and other witnesses.
He was a silent, thoughtful man. He spoke little generally; never of himself. I never heard him relate a single act of his life during the war. I have often seen him perfectly abstracted, his lips moving, but no sound was perceptible. I have sometimes made him laugh most heartily from sympathy with my joyous and extravagant spirits. I was, probably, one of the last persons on earth to whom he would have addressed serious conversation, particularly when he knew that I had the most perfect model of female excellence ever with me as my monitress, who acted the part of a tender and devoted parent, loving me as only a mother can love, and never extenuating or approving in me what she disapproved in others. She never omitted her private devotions, or her public duties; and she and her husband were so perfectly united and happy, that he must have been a Christian. She had no doubts, no fears for him. After forty years of devoted affection and uninterrupted happiness, she resigned him without a murmur into the arms of his Saviour and his God, with the assured hope of his eternal felicity.
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.'
[Nelly Custis-Lewis (born 1779) was the daughter of John Custis, who was the son of Martha Washington. John died in 1781. Nelly's mother remarried and moved away in 1783, leaving Nelly to be raised by George and Martha Washington from age 4 (1783) to age 20 (1799).]
"It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible." --attributed to George Washington by Henry Hampton Halley in his Bible Handbook * in 1927? Halley did not cite any source. (Note: This is frequently MISattributed to GW, sometimes to GW's Farewell Address or simply dated 17 September 1796 * (which is the date of GW's actual Farewell Address). Some web pages cite David Barton's 1989 book The Myth of Separation (which cited Halley *). Barton withdrew the 'quote' in 2002? with the suggestion that it had originated with Paulding. Also, Paul Boller * rejected this 'quote' * in his 1989 book They Never Said It *.)
"George Washington, in his farewell address, speaking to a young America, said: It is impossible to govern this country or any country in the world rightly without a belief in God and the Ten Commandments." --US Representative Joe Scarborough on 5 March 1997 * *
"... told to me by Mr. Robert Lewis, at Fredericksburg, in the Year 1827. Being a nephew of Washington, and his private secretary during the first part of his presidency, Mr. Lewis lived with him on terms of intimacy, and had the best opportunity for observing his habits. Mr. Lewis said he had accidentally witnessed his private devotions in his library both morning and evening; that on those occasions he had seen him in a kneeling posture with a Bible open before him, and that he believed such to have been his daily practice. Mr. Lewis is since dead, but he was a gentleman esteemed for his private worth and respectability. I relate the anecdote as he told it to me, understanding at the time that he was willing it should be made public on his authority. He added, that it was the President's custom to go to his library in the morning at four o'clock, and that, after his devotions, he usually spent his time till breakfast in writing letters." --Rev. Jared Sparks in Writings of George Washington 12:407 * * in ~1837
"To say that he was not a Christian, or at least that he did not believe himself to be a Christian, would be to impeach his sincerity and honesty. Of all men in the world, Washington was certainly the last, whom any one would charge with dissimulation or indirectness; and, if he was so scrupulous in avoiding even a shadow of these faults in every known act of his life, however unimportant, is it likely, is it credible, that, in a matter of highest and most serious importance, he should practice through a long series of years, a deliberate deception upon his friends and the public? It is neither credible nor possible." --Rev. Jared Sparks in Writings of George Washington 12:405 * * in ~1837
"I find no one who ever communed with him" (v2p262) and "I am sorry after so long a delay in replying to your last, that it is not in my power to communicate something decisive in reference to General Washington's church membership" (v2p370 --(unverified; Bacheler-Owen Debate [Origen Bacherer debate with Robert Dale Owen * in 1831])
"... The doubt rests again on the recollection of Mrs. Fielding Lewis, Nelly Custis, Gen. Washington's step-granddaughter, written in 1833, who states that after the Mount Vernon family removed from Pohick church to Christ church, Alexandria, the General was accustomed, on Communion Sundays, to leave the church with her, sending the carriage back for Mrs. Washington....
"truth requires me to say, that General Washington never received the communion, in the churches of which I am parochial minister. Mrs Washington was an habitual communicant..." --Rev. William White in a letter to Colonel Hugh Mercer on 15 August 1835 *, as reported by Rev. Bird Wilson in Memoir of Bishop White in 1839
"The circumstance of his withdrawing himself from the communion service, at a certain period of his life, has been remarked as singular. This may be admitted, and regretted, both on account of his example, and the value of his opinion as to the importance and practical tendency of this rite. It does not follow, however, that he was an unbeliever, unless the same charge is proved to rest against the numerous class of persons, who believe themselves to be sincere Christians, but who have scruples in regard to the ordinance of the communion. Whatever his motives may have been, it does not appear that they were ever explained. Nor is it known, or to be presumed, that any occasion offered. It is probable, that, after he took command of the army, finding his thoughts and attention necessarily engrossed by the business that devolved upon him, in which frequently little distinction could be observed between the Sabbath and other days, he may have believed it improper publicly to partake of an ordinance, which, according to the ideas he entertained of it, imposed severe restrictions on outward conduct, and a sacred pledge to perform duties impracticable in his situation. Such an impression would be natural to a serious mind; and, although it might be founded on erroneous views of the nature of the ordinance, it would not have the less weight with a man of a delicate conscience and habitual reverence for religion.
There is proof, however, that, on one occasion at least during the war, he partook of the communion; but this was at a season when the army was in camp, and the activity of business was in some degree suspended. An anecdote contained in Dr. [David] Hosack's Life of De Witt Clinton [*], and related in the words of the Reverend Samuel H. Cox, who communicated it to the author, establishes this fact.
'I have the following anecdote,' says Dr. Cox, ' from unquestionable authority. It has never, I think, been given to the public; but I received it from a venerable clergyman, who had it from the lips of the Reverend Dr. Jones [Timothy Johnes] himself. To all Christians, and to all Americans, it cannot fail to be acceptable.'
'While the American army, under the command of Washington, lay encamped at Morristown, New Jersey, it occurred that the service of the communion (then observed semi-annually only) was to be administered in the Presbyterian church of that village. In a morning of the previous week, the General, after his accustomed inspection of the camp, visited the house of the Reverend Dr. Jones, then pastor of the church, and, after the usual preliminaries, thus accosted him. "Doctor, I understand that the Lord's Supper is to be celebrated with you next Sunday; I would learn if it accords with the canon of your church to admit communicants of another denomination?" The Doctor rejoined; "Most certainly; ours is not the Presbyterian table, General, but the Lord's table; and we hence give the Lord's invitation to all his followers, of whatever name." The General replied, "I am glad of it; that is as it ought to be; but, as I was not quite sure of the fact, I thought I would ascertain it from yourself, as I propose to join with you on that occasion. Though a member of the Church of England, I have no exclusive partialities." The Doctor reassured him of a cordial welcome, and the General was found seated with the communicants the next Sabbath.'" --Rev. Jared Sparks in Writings of George Washington 12:409-10 * * * in ~1837 (Note: The story of GW's communion comes from Rev. Sparks, who got it from Dr. Hosack's book, who got it from Rev. Cox, who got it from 'a venerable clergyman', who got it from Rev. "Jones" (apparently meaning Rev. Johnes). Incredibly, Rev. Sparks calls this misspelled sixth-hand self-serving hearsay * 'proof' and 'fact', and Rev. Cox apparently calls it 'unquestionable authority' and 'cannot fail to be acceptible'.)
"One incident in Dr. [James] Abercrombie's experience as a clergyman, in connection with the father of his country, is specially worthy of record: and the following account of it was given by the Doctor himself, in a letter to a friend, in 1831, shortly after there had been some public allusion to it:-- 'With respect to the inquiry you make, I can only state the following facts:-- that, as Pastor of the Episcopal Church, observing that, on Sacrament Sundays, General Washington, immediately after the desk and pulpit services, went out with the greater part of the congregation,-- always leaving Mrs. Washington with the other communicants,-- she invariably being one,-- I considered it my duty, in a Sermon on Public Worship, to state the unhappy tendency of example, particularly of those in elevated stations who uniformly turned their backs upon the celebration of the Lord's Supper. I acknowledge the remark was intended for the President; and as such he received it. A few days after, in conversation with, I believe, a Senator of the United States, he told me he had dined the day before with the President, who, in the course of conversation at table, said that, on the preceding Sunday he had received a very just reproof from the pulpit for always leaving the church before the administration of the Sacrament; that he honored the preacher for his integrity and candour; that he had never sufficiently considered the influence of his example, and that he would not again give cause for the repetition of the reproof; and that, as he had never been a communicant, were he to become one then, it would be imputed to an ostentatious display of religious zeal, arising altogether from his elevated station. Accordingly, he never afterwards came on the morning of Sacrament Sunday, though at other times he was a constant attendant in the morning.'" --Rev. William Sprague in Annals of the American Pulpit 5:394 * in ~1860
"As I read, a few days ago, of the death of the Rev. Richard M. Abercrombie [died 7Dec1884], rector of St. Matthew's Protestant Episcopal church in Jersey City, memories of my boyhood arose. He was born not far from my father's house in Philadelphia and was the son of the Rev. James Abercrombie [1758-1841], a fine scholar and preacher, who had in early life corresponded with the great lexicographer, Dr. Samuel Johnson, and in later years was the assistant minister of Christ's and St. Peter's churches, in Philadelphia, where my maternal ancestors had worshiped for more than one generation. One day, after the father had reached four score years, the lately deceased son took me into the study of the aged man, and showed me a letter which President George Washington had written to his father, thanking him for the loan of one of his manuscript sermons. Washington and his wife were regular attendants upon his ministry while residing in Philadelphia. The President was not a communicant, notwithstanding all the pretty stories to the contrary, and after the close of the sermon on sacramental Sundays, had fallen into the habit of retiring from the church while his wife remained and communed... Upon one occasion Dr. Abercromble alluded to the unhappy tendency of the example of those dignified by age and position turning their backs upon the celebration of the Lord's Supper. The discourse arrested the attention of Washington, and after that he never came to church with his wife on Communion Sunday." --Rev. Edward Duffield Neill (1823-93) in a letter to the Episcopal Recorder in late December 1884? (unverified)
"The General was accustomed, on communion Sundays, to leave the church with her [Nelly Custis], sending the carriage back for Mrs. Washington." --Rev. Dr. Beverly Tucker (unverified)
"After that [Dr. Abercrombie's reproof], upon communion days, he absented himself altogether from the church." --Rev. Bird Wilson (unverified)
"He never was a communicant in them [Dr. White's churches]." (unverified)
"The question has often been raised whether Washington was a communicant of the Church. Bishop Perry [not found] has summed up the evidence in the following words: 'That Washington was a communicant of the Church previous to the war of the Revolution, admits of no doubt, if any regard is to be paid to the testimony of numerous witnesses who could not have been deceived. That he was not a frequent or regular communicant after the war and while in public office, is equally certain, but the testimony adduced by the celebrated Dr. Chapman [not found], a distinguished clergyman of the Church, is conclusive as to his occasional reception.'
I will not take the time to quote any of this testimony, save that given by General [Charles] Porterfield [who apparently also said that when John McClung "prayed before a battle, victory was sure to perch upon the American banners"], one of his aides, who says: 'General Washington was a pious man, a member of the Episcopal Church. I saw him myself on his knees receive the Lord's Supper at Philadelphia. As brigade inspector I often waited on Washington in the army, and going once, without warning, to his headquarters, I found him on his knees at the morning devotions.
Kneeling in prayer was an unusual attitude of devotion in those days, except for the communicant. You may recall the fact that at the opening of the Continental Congress in Carpenter's Hall, opened with prayers by the Rev. Dr. Duche, the rector of St. Peter's Church, it was remarked that Washington knelt while most of the members stood..." --Rev. Herbert Burk in his "Washington the Churchman" sermon on Washington's Birthday, 1903, as printed in Valley Forge Address * * by Theodore Roosevelt in 1909
"Current opinion regarding the religious life of Washington has as its basis a special work on this subject by a clergyman who was married to a grandniece. This effort to depict Washington as very devout from his childhood, as a strict Sabbatarian, and as in intimate spiritual communication with the church is practically contradicted by his own letters.
His services as a vestryman had no special significance from a religious standpoint. The political affairs of a Virginia county were then directed by the vestry, which, having the power to elect its own members, was an important instrument of the oligarchy of Virginia...
... there is no reliable evidence that he ever took communion with it [Episcopal] or any other church. In short, it seems that the very honesty and integrity of the man caused him to refrain from the more spiritual forms of activity in the church..."
Whenever local and domestic occasions required we find him filling his formal duties as vestryman and appearing as a sponsor. But in his letters, even those of consolation, there appears almost nothing to indicate his spiritual frame of mind. A particularly careful study of the man's letters convinces me that while the spirit of Christianity, as exemplified in love of God and love of man, was the controlling factor of his nature, yet he never formulated his religious faith...
He was not regular in attendance at church save possibly at home. While present at the First Provincial Congress in Philadelphia he went once to the Roman Catholic and once to the Episcopal church. He spent four mouths at the Constitutional Convention, going six times to church, once each to the Romish high mass, to the Friends', to the Presbyterian and thrice to the Episcopal service. [Note: This tally of GW's church attendance during the 1774 Continental Congress and the 1787 Constitutional Convention matches the entries in GW's diary, except that the convention names are transposed: that is, GW's diary actually records that GW went to church six times in Philadelphia in 1774 and twice in Philadelphia in 1787.] He respected the devout religious attitude of the Romish church by forbidding the celebration of Guy Fawkes' Day [* Pope Day] in the army, and again in repeatedly impressing upon his officers the necessity of respect and consideration for the religious faith of the French Canadians, whom he hoped to win to the American cause. Nor can it be believed that this was a question of policy, as the whole tenor of his life was in this direction. It is, however, somewhat striking that in several thousand letters the name of Jesus Christ never appears, and it is notably absent from his last will..." --Adolphus Washington Greely in his article Washington's Domestic and Religious Life * * * in the Ladies' Home Journal in April 1896
"In this morning's TIMES your correspondent L. D. Burdick appears quite angry because, ' in the interests of historical truth,' it is claimed that Washington was a churchman. If one goes on to read Mr. Burdick's letter expecting to find some reason for this indignation, he is met with some quotations which go to confirm ' the historical truth ' of the claim that Washington was a churchman. ' It is undisputed ' that Washington was a Vestryman, (very much of a churchman, one would suppose,) and one also learns that as a communicant the assistant minister of Christ Church, Philadelphia, expected him to communicate, which unfortunately he did not do. The long quotation of Mr. Burdick proves beyond doubt that Washington was a churchman, but raises another question as to whether he was a regular communicant or not.
May I conclude my letter with a quotation? May it prove as much as Mr. Burdick's. Bishop White states (' Memoir,' by the Rev. Bird Wilson, D. D., Page 196) ' that Gen. Washington, while a regular attendant upon public worship, was not a communicant in the Philadelphia parishes, but there are equally positive statements of his having occasionally communicated in St. Paul's Chapel, New York, in his later life. In his earlier life in Virginia he was a frequent communicant.' ('The Church in America,' by Bishop [Leighton] Coleman, Page 133, note.)" --E. L. J. in a letter to the New York Times, published on 12 December 1897
"Augustine Washington, like most scholarly Virginians of his time, was a deist. The only one of his children who appears to have been christened was George, which may have been a concession to his second wife. According to his relative, Mrs. Throckmorton, George was prayerful in childhood, and there are two or three quotations from hymns in one of his earliest copybooks written in a childish hand. Contemporary evidence shows that in mature life Washington was a deist, and did not communicate, which is quite consistent with his being a Vestryman. In England, where vestries have secular functions, it is not unusual for Unitarians to be Vestrymen, there being no doctrinal subscription required for that office. Washington's letters during the Revolution occasionally indicate his recognition of the hand of Providence in notable public events, but in the thousands of his letters I have never been able to find the name of Christ, or any reference to Him. It should be remembered, however, that in the last century the human side of Christ's character was ignored by theologians and preachers; to 'know Christ after the flesh' was left to heretics like Voltaire and Paine, who both in that century paid tributes to His humanity such as are now heard from every pulpit... [quotes Eastward/GW exchange about 'some explicit acknowledgment of the only true God']" --Moncure Conway in a letter to the New York Times on 12 December 1897 * *
"It is probably of very little interest to the readers of THE TIMES whether George Washington was a communicant of the Church or not, or whether he took his whisky straight or not; both questions have been more or less in dispute for half a century, but if we rely on contemporary evidence to attest facts, we must assume that Washington did both. Because Moncure D. Conway has been unable to find any reference, either directly or indirectly, to Christ in thousands of letters written by Washington, he infers that he was a Deist. Washington was not the sort of man to inject into his private or public correspondence any allusions to Christ. There was no cant about him. He thought, no doubt, as any gentleman would think now, that a man's religion was not a matter of public concern.
In his address to the Governors of the States, dated at Headquarters June, 1783, when about to surrender his military command, speaking of the many blessings to our country, he said: ' And above all, the pure and benign light of revelation,' and speaks of that humility and pacific temper of mind which were the characteristics of the ' Divine Author of our blessed religion.' As President of the United States, he exhibited the greatest reverence for religion, and was always a steady attendant at the Church of his fathers. Judge [John] Marshall, his most intimate friend and comrade, says 'He was a sincere believer in the Christian faith and a truly devout man.'
Judge [Elias?] Boudinot [*], who was intimately associated with him; Gen. Henry Lee, who served under him during the war and who delivered the famous funeral oration before Congress [26 Dec 1799]; Major William Jackson, his aide de camp--all have declared to his intense religious faith and belief.
It is a substantiated fact that he was a Vestryman, and who will believe that Washington would accept this or any other office and not concientiously observe all the duties that belong to the office? Washington was by birth and the strictest training a churchman, and because he turned his back in church on the Rev. Dr. Abercrombie, in Philadelphia, for what seemed to him an unwarranted remark, it does not imply that he neglected his duties elsewhere. To the contrary, it is more consistent with our knowledge of Washington's life and character that he did communicate." --S. E. Shipp in a letter to the New York Times, published on 16 December 1897 *
"If the rector of Wilton will kindly reread my letter he will see that in his haste he has put into it things which were not there at all. I made no 'sweeping denial,' nor even an assertion, that Washington was not a churchman. The historical evidence may be briefly summarized as follows: He was baptized in infancy; he was educated under Church influences; he attended the Episcopal Church and contributed to its support; he served as Vestryman in two parishes; he was not a very consistent attendant; no Church records show that he was a communicant; there is no proof that he ever partook of the sacrament; he habitually left before it was administered or abstained from going on those Sundays. On the latter point there is not only the testimony of the assistant rector of Christ Church, but also the statement of Nelly Custis, (see Ford's Life, Page 82.) In addition to this, there is the statement of the assistant rector, which he had from a United States Senator, who had it from Washington himself, that he never was a communicant.
Now, whether Washington was a communicant or not I do not know. Critical examination of the evidence seems to indicate that he was not. Surely the burden of proof rests upon those who assert that he was.
In regard to Washington's religious belief, Madison is on record as saying he ' did not suppose that Washington had ever attended to the arguments for Christianity, or for the different systems of religion, or, in fact, that he had formed definite opinions on the subject.' Jefferson states that Gouverneur Morris had often told him Washington believed no more of Christian doctrines that he himself did. Whatever may have been his individual convictions, the proof seems conclusive that he was in favor of the widest toleration in religious beliefs. When the bill was under consideration in Virginia for taxing all the people for the support of the Episcopal Church he strongly opposed it. He says, in one of his letters: 'Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought most to be deprecated.' Again, in a letter to Lafayette, he says: 'I am not less ardent in my wish that you may succeed in your plan of toleration in religious matters. Being no bigot myself, 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.' As long as the grand and catholic sentiments as these have established beyond question the nobility and character of Washington, it matters little what particular branch of the Christian Church has the honor of claiming him as it's own or whether he was a church member at all." --L. D. Burdick in a letter to the New York Times on 19 December 1897 * *
"Mr. S. E. Shipp, in your paper of the 16th, is inexact in saying that I inferred Washington's deism from the absence of the name of Christ, or any reference to Him from his thousands of letters. I inferred it from 'contemporary evidence' from Jefferson's citation of Gouverneur Morris, and from a private letter of Gen. Tallmadge on Washington's death, deploring his great friend's lack of faith in the redemption and other doctrines...
The reference to 'the Divine Author of our blessed religion,' contained in one public document, by no means satisfied the orthodoxy of 1783, (see Jefferson's 'Ana,') and it will be seen by the context that the whole sentence studiously embodies the Socinian (humanitarian) view. A good many Theists now call Jesus 'divine,' as a substitute for his deification, and, with Washington, exalt 'that charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things we can never hope to be a happy Nation.'
Jefferson, a pronounced deist, collected in a volume the moral teachings and incidents of Jesus's life, where not supernatural, for family instruction. This would have represented to him and other deists 'the pure and benign light of revelation,' of which Washington speaks in another sentence of the same document--a circular to the Governors of the States on disbanding the army. These cautious sentences prove, what none ever questioned, that Washington regarded the religious institutions of the country as very useful, and in his solemn circular went as far as he truthfully could to commend them. But would he have withheld an expression of faith in the atonement and other fundamental doctrines had he held such? And would he not have alluded to these doctrines had he believed them, when writing to his mother, his sister, to his nieces and nephews--at least in the long and impressive letters written to young people he had adopted for their moral improvement?
'There was no cant about him,' says Mr. Shipp. 'He thought, no doubt, as many gentlemen would think now, that a man's religion was not a matter of public concern.' But this would not explain the absence of such ideas from his private and family letters, and, indeed, as to the public, Washington repeatedly expressed his religious convictions--his belief in God and in Providence..." --Moncure Conway in a letter to the New York Times on 25 December 1897 *
GW's 1745 copy book:
"... O most Glorious God, in Jesus Christ my merciful & loving father, I acknowledge and confess [illegible] guilt, in the weak and imperfect performance of the duties of this day. I have called on thee for pardon and forgiveness of sins, but so coldly and carelessly, that my prayers are become my sin and stand in need of pardon. I have heard thy holy word, but with such deadness of spirit that I have been an unprofitable and forgetful hearer, so that, O Lord, tho' I have done thy work, yet it hath been so negligently that I may rather expect a curse than a blessing from thee. But, O God, who art rich in mercy and plenteous in redemption, mark not I beseech thee what I have done amiss, remember that i am but dust, and remit my transgressions, negligences, & ignorances, & cover them all with the absolute obedience of thy dear Son, that those sacrifices which I have offered may be accepted by thee, in and for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ offered upon the cross for me; for his sake, ease me of the burden of my sins, and give me grace that by the call of the Gospel
that I may rise from the slumber of sin into the newness of life. Let me li[v?f?]e according to those holy rules which thou hast this day prescribed in thy holy word; make me to know what is acceptable in thy holy word; make me to know what is acceptable in thy sight, and therein to delight. open the eyes of my understanding, and help me thoroughly to examine myself concerning my knowledge, faith, and repentance. increase my faith, and direct me to the true object Jesus Christ the way, the truth, and the life. bless O Lord, all the people of this land, from the highest to the lowest, particularly those whom thou has appointed to rule over us in church & state. continue thy goodness to me this night. These weak petitions I humbly implore thee to hear accept & ans. for the sake of thy Dear Son Jesus Christ our Lord. amen..."
--George Washington's prayer journal on 23 April 1752? (Sunday evening), according to Stanislaus Henkels in Fac-Simile of Manuscript Prayer-Book by George Washington in 1891 (apparently also according to William Jackson Johnstone?/Johnson? in George Washington the Christian
in 1919 and Rev. Herbert Burk in Washington's Prayers in 1907)
"I planned to build a chapel [at Valley Forge]; I hoped it might become a shrine." --Rev. Herbert Burk in "American Westminster" (unverified; DAR Magazine 42 (December 1923, NRLF MS E202.5 .A2 SI=38-71 1937), 704-707)
"... The impossibility of the work being in Washington's hand should be apparent to the most casual comparison. The writer of the Prayers, for instance, always crosses his final "t's," and all his "t's" are squatty and fat. Washington always wrote a tall thin "t," and usually ended it with a mere sidewise uplift. Little words like "and," "the," "this," and "most" are utterly unlike Washington's other examples, early or late. The capital "I" is not like his, nor the familiar "G," nor the "L," nor the "D," nor any of the capitals. The same is true of the small letters, their joinings and angles. The dates and days of the week are not in the least like his. Never in his life could Washington have written the sentences as they run. The "round hand" he practiced for a time has no resemblance to this specimen. The tracings herewith may be compared with the facsimiles from Washington's Note Books of 1757 which were written in the so-called "round hand" he used for ten years.
Mr. Milton Carlson, one of America's most competent handwriting experts, with legal standing in the highest courts, having examined the text and many examples of Washington's known writings, agrees fully with the above contentions.
He finds it incredible that Washington could have either composed or copied the Daily Sacrifice. The writing, he says, shows a deliberation and feebleness that at no time characterized Washington's style of penmanship, which was remarkable for delicacy, slenderness, vigor, and speed. The chirography of the text is round, slow and fat. In the spacing of the words, the weak terminals of the letters, the general slant, and relation of the letters in height, angle, and width; in fact, in all qualities that determine an authentic autograph, this Daily Sacrifice is completely unlike anything of Washington's.
Of course, the Prayers have been useful for certain purposes, and religious people have never been over-cautious about ascribing texts to convenient authors; but it is rank dishonesty to continue the pretence that this work is Washington's..." --Rupert Hughes * in George Washington * * * * in 1926
"... while this prayer book was vociferously proclaimed to have been written by Washington, there was not an iota of evidence that he ever had anything to do with it, or that it even ever belonged to him. A little investigation soon pricked the bubble. Worthington C. Ford, who had handled more of Washington's manuscripts than any other man except Washington himself, declared that the penmanship was not that of washington. Rupert Hughes (Washington, vol. 1, p. 658) gives facsimile specimens of the handwriting in the prayer book side by side with known specimens of Washington's penmanship at the time the prayer book was supposed to have been written. A glance proves that they are not by the same hand.
Then in the prayer book manuscript all of the words are spelled correctly, while Washington was a notoriously poor speller. But the greatest blow it received was when the Smithsonian Institute refused to accept it as a genuine Washington relic. That Washington did not compose it was proved by Dr. W.A. Croffutt, a newspaper correspondent of the Capital, who traced the source of some of the prayers to an old prayer brook in the Congressional Library printed, in the reign of James the First." --Franklin Steiner in Religious Beliefs Of Our Presidents * * in 1936
"That President George Washington was a devout believer in Jesus Christ and had accepted Him as His Lord and Savior is easily demonstrated by a reading of his personal prayer book (written in his own handwriting), which was discovered in 1891 among a collection of his papers. To date no historian has questioned its authenticity... An objective reading of these beautiful prayers verifies that were George Washington living today, he would freely identify with the Bible-believing branch of evangelical Christianity that is having such a positive influence on our nation." --Rev. Tim LaHaye in Faith of our Founding Fathers * * * * in 1987 (LaHaye's claim that "no historian has questioned its authenticity" is incorrect because Rupert Hughes wrote a three-volume (2120 page) biography of GW in 1926-30 (showing that Hughes was a historian) in which Hughes said "it is rank dishonesty to continue the pretence that this work is Washington's" (showing that Hughes "questioned its authenticity"). The dust jacket of LaHaye's book says "Like a master detective he uncovers long forgotten clues to the true faith of America's founding fathers." The book is dedicated to Rev. William Lyons, saying "Without his careful research of over 600 books in the Library of Congress, this book would not have been written." It also acknowledges "Rolland Goree and my other staff members who labored so carefully to guarantee the accuracy of this book". However, LaHaye's book also says "... an observation I have made in my research of over 600 books in the Library of Congress: If you wish to find the Christian views of our Founding Fathers, you must go back to books written more than fifty years ago...")
"The so-called prayer journal is not in GW's writing, although I'm not sure it's actually a forgery. The manuscript dealer (Burk I think) who first sold it when it came to light in the 19th century printed a facsimile edition in which he admits that the Smithsonian rejected it as a non-GW document, but it did have Washington family provenance, so he said. Thus it apparently was a descendant's. Johnson's version is taken from Burk. The prayers are based on the English prayer book." --Frank Grizzard (senior associate editor of the George Washington Papers collection at University of Virginia) according to Ed Brayton (2004)
"... Not once in all of his authentic, extant correspondence does he explicitly indicate his belief in the reunion of loved ones in Heaven. Certainly the greatest comfort of religion in general and of Christianity in particular is this hope. Washington may urge those in grief to find consolation in religion, but in all the letters of condolence he writes he never gives his recipients the comfort of his assurance that he believes they will meet again with their loved ones..." --Professor Paul Henriques in his article The Final Struggle between George Washington and the Grim King: Washington's Attitude toward Death and an Afterlife * * in 1999
"I am sure that never was a people, who had more reason to acknowledge a Divine interposition in their affairs, than those of the United States; and I should be pained to believe that they have forgotten that Agency, which was so often manifested during our Revolution, or that they failed to consider the omnipotence of that God who is alone able to protect them." --attributed to George Washington on 11 March 1792 (not found) *
"Do not let any one claim to be a true American if they ever attempt to remove religion from politics." --sometimes attributed to George Washington (no citations found; doesn't sound like GW)