Monday, February 19, 2007

George Washington

Some of us got off work today to celebrate "Presidents' Day." When I was young we got two holidays, one for Washington's Birthday and a second for Lincoln's Birthday. These two appear to have been combined into one holiday in 1971 when Columbus Day was added as a federal holiday. I like Columbus, and Lincoln was arguably America's worst President, so that seems like a good swap.

Some are not happy that the only U.S. holiday named after an individual is Martin Luther King's birthday, with Washington, "the Father of his Country," getting short-shrift. I tend to agree. Anyone who supports capitalism cannot support Martin Luther King. King's character cannot compare with men like Booker T. Washington, or George Washington Carver, who had none of King's communist sympathies, and did not promote government coercion as a means to social salvation. The color barrier was broken years before King by Jackie Robinson, who understood how capitalism works and used this knowledge (that is to say, took personal responsibility) to fight segregation, rather than advocating pernicious government laws which coerce and create resentment, but do not illuminate minds and persuade hearts.

I don't deny that George Washington was the leader of a violent revolution of which I disapprove, using tactics that increased loss of life. And while not the dictator that Lincoln was, probably would not have put up bail for me if I had been around to be imprisoned under Adam's "Alien and Sedition Acts"

Still, Washington believed many things that the ACLU hates, and that makes Washington an admirable man. Was George Washington a Christian? Some report he did not observe the Lord's Table. Neither do I, and I consider myself a fanatic Christian. Opposition to clericalism and sacramentalism should not be equated with opposition to Christ. When the Continental Army was beginning to emerge from its infamous winter at Valley Forge, Commander-in-Chief George Washington commended his troops for their courage and patriotism and then reminded them:
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.
(General Orders of May 2, 1778)
In a speech to the Delaware Indian Chiefs on May 12, 1779, Washington said,
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.
(The Writings of George Washington, JC Fitzpatrick, ed., Wash. DC: US Govt Printing Office, 1932, Vol 15, p.55)
A century ago, the recitation of Washington's Farewell Address was de rigeur during Washington's Birthday celebrations. That address, along with his Thanksgiving Proclamation, completely destroy the myth of the "separation of church and state."
Of all the dispositions and habits, which lead to political prosperity, Religion, and Morality are indispensable supports.—In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and Citizens. —The mere Politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them.—A volume could not trace all their connexions with private and public felicity.—Let it simply be asked where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths, which are the instruments of investigation in Courts of Justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion.—Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure—reason and experience both forbid us to expect, that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.—
Put another way, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that Free Market capitalism can prevail when Christianity is purged from public schools.

Happy Birthday, Mr. President.