George Washington: First Thanksgiving Proclamation

A contemplation of the compleat attainment (at a period earlier than could have been expected) of the object for which we contended against so formidable a power cannot but inspire us with astonishment and gratitude. The disadvantageous circumstances on our part, under which the war was undertaken, can never be forgotten. The singular interpositions of Providence in our feeble condition were such, as could scarcely escape the attention of the most unobserving; while the unparalleled perseverance of the Armies of the U States, through almost every possible suffering and discouragement for the space of eight long years, was little short of a standing miracle.  

George Washington

 

The father of our nation was a religious man.  He had no doubt of the existence of God, and that He intervened in the affairs of men and nations.  Therefore it is no surprise that he originated the tradition of the last Thursday in November for Americans to thank God.  Lincoln revived the tradition in 1863 in the midst of the Civil War.  When we celebrate Thanksgiving today, we are celebrating a holiday that is at the very core of American history from the Pilgrims forward. (more…)

Published in: on November 28, 2019 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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“Something Charming in the Sound”

 

“I heard the bullets whistle, and, believe me, there is something charming in the sound.”

George Washington, letter to his brother May 31, 1754, telling him about his victory at the battle of Jumonville.   What might have been mere bragging by virtually any other man, was not the case with the Father of our Country.  As far as we can judge from outward evidence, Washington was absolutely fearless.  Time after time in the French and Indian War and in the American Revolution,  he exposed himself to enemy fire.  At Braddock’s Defeat in 1755 Washington had two horses shot out from beneath him, and four enemy musket balls were lodged in his clothes by the end of the fight.  Washington believed that he could not be an effective leader unless he led from the front, and that is precisely what he did, often to the distress of his aides.  His only emotional reaction to being under enemy fire was apparently complete contempt for the fire of the enemy.  Men who observed him often wrote that they were amazed that anyone could be as fearless as he was. (more…)

Published in: on May 31, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on “Something Charming in the Sound”  
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George Washington and British POWs

George Washington was a humane man, but he had his limits.  When he learned that American prisoners of war were being mistreated by the British, he wrote to General Thomas Gage, the commander of the British forces in Boston, this letter on August 11, 1775:

Sir: I understand that the Officers engaged in the Cause of Liberty and their Country, who by the Fortune of War have fallen into your Hands, have been thrown, indiscriminately, into a common Gaol appropriated for Felons; That no Consideration has been had for those of the most respectable Rank, when languishing with Wounds, and Sickness; that some have been even amputated, in this unworthy Situation.

    Let your Opinion, Sir, of the Principle which Actuates them, be what it may, they suppose they act from the noblest of all Principles, a Love of Freedom, and their Country: But political Opinions I conceive are foreign to this Point; the Obligations arising from the Rights of Humanity, and Claims of Rank are universally binding, and extensive (except in case of Retaliation): These I should have hoped, would have dictated a more tender Treatment of those Individuals, whom Chance or War had put in your Power. Nor can I forbear suggesting its fatal Tendency, to widen that unhappy Breach, which you, and those Ministers under whom you act, have repeatedly declared you wish’d to see forever closed.

    My Duty now makes it necessary to apprize you, that for the future I shall regulate my Conduct towards those Gentlemen, who are or may be in our Possession, exactly by the Rule you shall observe towards those of ours, now in your Custody.

    If Severity and Hardship mark the Line of your Conduct (painful as it may be to me) your Prisoners will feel its Effects: But if Kindness and Humanity are shewn to ours, I shall with Pleasure consider those in our Hands, only as unfortunate, and they shall receive from me that Treatment, to which the unfortunate are ever intitled.

    I beg to be favoured with an Answer, as soon as possible, and am Sir, etc (more…)

Published in: on May 5, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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George Washington Celebrates Saint Patrick’s Day

 

Throughout his life George Washington had a great deal of sympathy for the struggles of the Irish against their English rulers, seeing in those struggles a mirror for the American fight for independence.  Irish immigrants to America, Protestant and Catholic, were enthusiastic in their embrace of the American cause, and during the Revolutionary War many of the soldiers who served in the Continental Army were Irish or of Irish descent.  Therefore when General Washington heard in March 1780 that the Irish Parliament had passed free trade legislation, he issued the following general order to the Army on March 16, 1780:

The general congratulates the army on the very interesting proceedings of the parliament of Ireland and the inhabitants of that country which have been lately communicated;  not only as they appear calculated to remove those heavy and tyrannical oppressions on their trade but to restore to a brave and generous people their ancient rights and freedom and by their operations to promote the cause of America. (more…)

Published in: on March 17, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on George Washington Celebrates Saint Patrick’s Day  
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Brightness to the Sun

 

This is the one hundred and tenth anniversary of the birth-day of Washington. We are met to celebrate this day. Washington is the mightiest name of earth — long since mightiest in the cause of civil liberty; still mightiest in moral reformation. On that name, an eulogy is expected. It cannot be. To add brightness to the sun, or glory to the name of Washington, is alike impossible. Let none attempt it. In solemn awe pronounce the name, and in its naked deathless splendor, leave it shining on.

Abraham Lincoln, February 22, 1842

Published in: on February 22, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Brightness to the Sun  
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December 1776: A Dying Revolution and The Old Fox

 

 

The American Revolution was in the process of dying 242 years ago as General George Washington revealed in letters to his cousin Lund Washington who looked after Mount Vernon for the General during the War.

 

Dear Lund,

* * * * * *

I wish to Heaven it was in my power to give you a more favorable account of our situation than it is. Our numbers, quite inadequate to the task of opposing that part of the army under the command of General Howe, being reduced by sickness, desertion, and political deaths (on or before the first instant, and having no assistance from the militia), were obliged to retire before the enemy, who were perfectly well informed of our situation, till we came to this place, where I have no idea of being able to make a stand, as my numbers, till joined by the [78] Philadelphia militia, did not exceed three thousand men fit for duty. Now we may be about five thousand to oppose Howe’s whole army, that part of it excepted which sailed under the command of Gen. Clinton. I tremble for Philadelphia. Nothing, in my opinion, but Gen. Lee’s speedy arrival, who has been long expected, though still at a distance (with about three thousand men), can save it. We have brought over and destroyed all the boats we could lay our hands on upon the Jersey shore for many miles above and below this place; but it is next to impossible to guard a shore for sixty miles, with less than half the enemy’s numbers; when by force or strategem they may suddenly attempt a passage in many different places. At present they are encamped or quartered along the other shore above and below us (rather this place, for we are obliged to keep a face towards them) for fifteen miles. * * *

December 17, ten miles above the Falls.

* * * I have since moved up to this place, to be more convenient to our great and extensive defences of this river. Hitherto, by our destruction of the boats, and vigilance in watching the fords of the river above the falls (which are now rather high), we have prevented them from crossing; but how long we shall be able to do it God only knows, as they are still hovering about the river. And if every thing else fails, will wait till the 1st of January, when there will be no other men to oppose them but militia, none of which but those from Philadelphai, mentioned [79] in the first part of the letter, are yet come (although I am told some are expected from the back counties). When I say none but militia, I am to except the Virginia regiments and the shattered remains of Smallwood’s, which, by fatigue, want of clothes, &c., are reduced to nothing—Weedon’s, which was the strongest, not having more than between one hundred and thirty to one hundred and forty men fit for duty, the rest being in the hospitals. The unhappy policy of short enlistments and a dependence upon militia will, I fear, prove the downfall of our cause, though early pointed out with an almost prophetic spirit! Our cause has also received a severe blow in the captivity of Gen. Lee. Unhappy man! Taken by his own imprudence, going three or four miles from his own camp, and within twenty of the enemy, notice of which by a rascally Tory was given a party of light horse seized him in the morning after travelling all night, and carried him off in high triumph and with every mark of indignity, not even suffering him to get his hat or surtout coat. The troops that were under his command are not yet come up with us, though they, I think, may be expected to-morrow. A large part of the Jerseys have given every proof of disaffection that they can do, and this part of Pennsylvania are equally inimical. In short, your imagination can scarce extend to a situation more distressing than mine. Our only dependence now is upon the speedy enlistment of a new army. If this fails, I think the game will be pretty well up, as, from disaffection and want of spirit and fortitude, the inhabitants, [80] instead of resistance, are offering submission and taking protection from Gen. Howe in Jersey. * * * I am &c. (more…)

Published in: on December 18, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on December 1776: A Dying Revolution and The Old Fox  
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George Washington: Mitigating Circumstances

Toranaga: “[Another person] says that the Netherlands were vassals of the Spanish king until just a few years ago. Is that true?”

Blackthorne: “Yes.”

Toranaga: “Therefore, the Netherlands – your allies – are in a state of rebellion against their lawful king?”

Blackthorne: “They’re fighting against the Spaniard, yes, but – ”

Toranaga: “Isn’t that rebellion? Yes or no?”

Blackthorne: “Yes. But there are mitigating circumstances. Serious miti- ”

Toranaga: “There are no ‘mitigating circumstances’ when it comes to rebellion against a sovereign lord!”

Blackthorne: “Unless you win.”

Toranaga looked at him intently. Then laughed uproariously. “Yes, Mister Foreigner…you have named the one mitigating factor.”

James Clavell, Shogun

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Hattip to commenter Dale Price for the idea of linking George Washington and Shogun.  Language advisory as to the below video:

 

Published in: on July 13, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on George Washington: Mitigating Circumstances  
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Washington and the Painters

 

George Washington was one of the first global celebrities who was not a monarch.  How tiresome this was to him he revealed in a letter:

Dear Sir,

Your letter of the 20th Ulto was presented to me yesterday by Mr Williams—who as a professional man—may, or may not be for ought I know, a luminary of the first magnitude. But to be frank, and I hope you will not be displeased with me for being so—I am so heartily tired of the attendance which from one cause or another has been given ⟨to⟩ these kind of people, that it is now more than two years since I have resolved to sit no more for any of them and have adhered to it, except in instances where it has been requested by public bodies, or for a particular purpose (not of the Painters) and could not, without offence be refused.

I have been led to make this resolution for another reason besides the irksomeness of sitting, and the time I loose by it—which is, that these productions have in my estimation, been made use of as a sort of tax on individuals by being engraved (and that badly) and hawked about or advertised for Sale. With very great esteem & regard I am Dear Sir Yr most Obt & Affe Servt

G.W——n

Two years later in 1794 Washington did sit for the painter at the request of Masonic Lodge 22.  Washington is wearing Masonic regalia and looks quite unhappy:

(more…)

Published in: on April 17, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Washington and the Painters  
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February 22, 2018: 286th Birthday of George Washington

 

It won’t be that long, only fourteen years, until it will be three centuries since the birth of the Father of our Country.  Washington, as one might expect, paid little attention to his birthdays, not taking note of them in his diaries.  However, even during his lifetime the date was being observed with celebrations by the American people.  On his last birthday in 1799 when he turned 67,  the Washington family observed the marriage of his step granddaughter, Eleanor Parke, called Nellie, Custis.  After the death of her father, who died of camp fever contracted during the siege of Yorktown in 1781, she and her brother George Washington Parke Custis, with the consent of their mother who was raising the five other children she and her late husband had, lived with the Washingtons and were informally adopted by them.  Throughout her life she regarded herself as the custodian of her adopted father’s memory.  Much of what we know about the personal life of the Washington’s comes from her correspondence with biographers seeking information about Washington.

I suspect that the topic of mortality may have crossed Washington’s mind on his last birthday.  His father had lived only until 49 and Washington had a bout of his recurrent malaria in 1798 and had only tardily responded to quinine.  Washington had been enjoying his retirement from public life, but he was beginning to feel his years.  However he had no fears of death and approached it with a sense of humor.  Martha Washington in 1797 in a letter to Elizabeth Willing Powel, made the following observation from her husband:  “I am now, by desire of the General to add a few words on his behalf; which he desires may be expressed in the terms following, that is to say, that despairing of hearing what may be said of him, if he should really go off in an Apoplectic, or any other fit, (for he thinks all fits that issue in death, are worse than a love fit, a fit of laughter, and many other kinds which he could name); he is glad to hear beforehand what will be said of him on that occasion; conceiving that nothing extra: will happen between this and then to make a change in his character for better, or for worse.”

Published in: on February 22, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on February 22, 2018: 286th Birthday of George Washington  
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Lincoln and Liberty Too

 

 

The low clown out of the prairies, the ape-buffoon,

The small-town lawyer, the crude small-time politician,

State-character but comparative failure at forty

In spite of ambition enough for twenty Caesars,

Honesty rare as a man without self-pity,

Kindness as large and plain as a prairie wind,

And a self-confidence like an iron-bar:

This Lincoln, President now by the grace of luck,

Disunion, politics, Douglas and a few speeches

Which make the monumental booming of Webster

Sound empty as the belly of a burst drum.

Stephen Vincent Benet, John Brown’s Body

Something for the weekend.  Lincoln and Liberty Too, the most stirring campaign song in American history.  Mr. Lincoln’s birthday, his 209th, is on Monday which this year coincides with the state holiday in Illinois.  I always close down the law mines on that day.  Lincoln used to say that Henry Clay was his ideal of a statesman and for me Abraham Lincoln has always filled that role.  Presidents come and Presidents go, but Washington and Lincoln remain, the fixed stars of the better angels of our natures.

 

 

HURRAH for the choice of the nation!
Our chieftain so brave and so true;
We’ll go for the great Reformation—
For Lincoln and Liberty too!

We’ll go for the son of Kentucky—
The hero of Hoosierdom through;
The pride of the Suckers so lucky—
For Lincoln and Liberty too!

Our David’s good sling is unerring,
The Slaveocrats’ giant he slew;
Then shout for the Freedom-preferring—
For Lincoln and Liberty too!

They’ll find what, by felling and mauling,
Our rail-maker statesman can do;
For the People are everywhere calling
For Lincoln and Liberty too.

Then up with our banner so glorious,
The star-spangled red-white-and-blue,
We’ll fight till our flag is victorious,
For Lincoln and Liberty too!

Published in: on February 10, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Lincoln and Liberty Too  
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