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Washington Birthday Anniversary Feb 2014

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Washington Birthday Anniversary Feb 2014

 

As we look forward to honoring the memory of the first President of our country under the Constitution of the United States of America it is good to look back and see some of what has been written about President George Washington.  These examples come in the course of the writing of a review of an interesting part of our history.  This includes things he himself wrote or said illustrating why he has been held up as an exemplary Christian by those who knew him and wrote about him in the early days after his death.  We bow our heads and thank our God for such a godly man and ask our God to work in us to become the kind of persons He can use to make this country like He and our Founders wanted it to be.1

The document known to us as the Constitution took two years for ratification by the individual states.  Among the writings urging its ratification was an essay by Noah Webster, our Founding Father of American Scholarship and Education.  In his essay, Noah Webster touched upon the important relationship of property to freedom:

"The liberty of the press, trial by jury, the Habeas Corpus writ, even Magna Charta itself, though justly deemed the palladia of freedom, are all inferior considerations, when compared with a general distribution of real property among every class of people ....  Let the people have property and they will have power - a power that will forever be exerted to prevent a restriction of the press, and abolition of trial by jury, or the abridgement of any other privilege.  The liberties of America, therefore, and her forms of government, stand on the broadest basis."

In the almost two hundred years since ratification, efforts to detract from the character and Christian conviction of our Founding Fathers has contributed to our decline as a Constitutional Republic.  Perhaps our greatest loss as a nation has been in our understanding and knowledge of George Washington as a statesman and writer.  In the foreword to his forty volumes of correspondence, is the following statement:

"Literary power and statesmanship were combined in George Washington, the greatest political leader of his time and also the greatest intellectual and moral force of the Revolutionary period.  Everybody knows Washington as a quiet member of the Virginia Assembly, of the two Continental Congresses, and of the Constitutional Convention.  Few people realize that he was also the most voluminous American writer of his period, and that his principles of government have had more influence on the development of the American commonwealth than those of any other man."2

No wonder then that George Washington could write so convincingly on the importance of the new Constitution!  No wonder this American Christian statesman was able to extend his military dependence upon the God of Battles to his dependence upon God as the Author of Liberty.  No wonder George Washington, like other Christian statesmen of his time, saw the inseparability of religion and government: " ... while just government protects all in their religious rights, true religion affords to government its surest support." 

By contrast with the opinions of the detractors of George Washington and our Constitutional Republic, is the statement of Douglas Southall Freeman, the most eminent biographer of Washington.  He wrote at the conclusion of his seven volume study:

"What more could I ask for myself than to make the rediscovery that in Washington this nation and the western hemisphere have a man 'greater than the world knew, living and dying,' a man dedicated, just and incorruptible, an example for long centuries of what character and diligence can achieve?"

George Washington was indeed "first in the hearts of his countrymen."

On June 19, 1788, George Washington wrote to the Marquis De LaFayette regarding the Constitution, as he waited for one more state to ratify:

"... And then, I expect, that many blessings will be attributed to our new government, which are now taking their rise from that industry and frugality into the practice of which the people have been forced from necessity.  I really believe, that there never was so much labour and economy to be found before in the country as at the present moment.  If they persist in the habits they are acquiring, the good effects will soon be distinguishable.  When the people shall find themselves secure under an energetic government, when foreign nations shall be disposed to give us equal advantages in commerce from dread of retaliation, when the burdens of war shall be in a manner done away by the sale of western lands, when the seeds of happiness which are sown here shall begin to expand themselves, and when everyone (under his own vine and fig-tree) shall begin to taste the fruits of freedom, then all these blessings (for all these blessings will come) will be referred to the fostering influence of the new government.  Whereas many causes will have conspired to produce them."

"You see I am not less enthusiastic than ever I have been, if a belief that peculiar scenes of felicity are reserved for this country, is to be denominated enthusiasm.  Indeed, I do not believe, that Providence has done so much for nothing.  It has always been my creed that we should not be left as an awful monument to prove, 'that Mankind, under the most favourable circumstances for civil liberty and happiness, are unequal to the task of Governing themselves, and therefore made for a Master.' ''

On June 29, 1788, after the ratification of the Constitution is assured, he writes to Benjamin Lincoln:

"No one can rejoice more than I do at every step the people of this great Country take to preserve the Union, establish good order and government, and to render the Nation happy at home and respectable abroad.  No Country upon Earth ever had it more in its power to attain these blessings than United America.  Wondrously strange then, and much to be regretted indeed would it be, were we to neglect the means, and depart from the road which Providence has pointed us to, so plainly; I cannot believe it will ever come to pass.  The Great Governor of the Universe has led us too long and too far on the road to happiness and glory, to forsake us in the midst of it.  By folly and improper conduct, proceeding from a variety of causes, we may now and then get bewildered; but I hope and trust that there is good sense and virtue enough left to recover the right path before we shall be entirely lost."

And to his good friend, Governor Jonathan Trumbull of Connecticut, known as "Brother Jonathan" for his wonderful support of General Washington all through the War, he wrote on July 20, 1788:

"Your friend Colo. Humphreys informs me, from the wonderful revolution of sentiment in favour of federal measures, and the marvellous change for the better in the elections of your State, that he shall begin to suspect that miracles have not ceased; indeed, for myself, since so much liberality has been displayed in the construction and adoption of the proposed General Government, I am almost disposed to be of the same opinion.  Or at least we may, with a kind of grateful and pious exultation, trace the finger of Providence through those dark and mysterious events, which first induced the States to appoint a general Convention and then led them one after another (by such steps as were best calculated to effect the object) into an adoption of the system recommended by that general Convention; thereby in all human probability, laying a lasting foundation for tranquillity and happiness; when we had but too much reason to fear that confusion and misery were coming rapidly upon us.  That the same good Providence may still continue to protect us and prevent us from dashing the cup of national felicity just as it has been lifted to our lips, is the earnest prayer of My Dear Sir, your faithful friend."

Let us join in the prayer of our First President as he wrote to the Secretary of War on July 31, 1788:

"I earnestly pray that the Omnipotent Being who has not deserted the of cause America in the hour of its extreme hazard, will never yield so fair a heritage freedom a prey to Anarchy or Despotism."

The men who understood the uniqueness of our Constitution worried as to whether their posterity could keep it.  Justice Joseph Story concludes his Commentaries with this warning:

"The structure has been erected by architects of consummate skill and fidelity; its foundations are solid; its compartments are beautiful, as well as useful; its arrangements are full of wisdom and order; and its defences are impregnable from without.  It has been reared for immortality, if the work of man may justly aspire to such a title.  It may, nevertheless, perish in an hour by the folly, or corruption, or negligence of its only keepers, THE PEOPLE.  Republics are created by the virtue, public spirit, and intelligence of the citizens.  They fall, when the wise are banished from the public councils, because they dare to be honest, and the profligate are rewarded, because they flatter the people, in order to betray them." 

 Christian church historian Philip Schaff, writing almost a hundred years ago, echoes Justice Story's warning:

"Republican institutions in the hands of a virtuous and God-fearing nation are the very best in the world, but in the hands of a corrupt and religious people they are the very worst, and the most effective weapons of destruction...  Destroy our churches, close our Sunday schools, abolish the Lordís Day, and our republic would become an empty shell, and our people would tend to heathenism and barbarism.  Christianity is the most powerful factor in our society and the pillar of our institutions."

In closing these excerpts showing the beautiful Christian character of President George Washington (which is a powerful example for all of us) we read the following incident at the beginning of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, by Jn. Fiske. This is a good summary of his wisdom and strength of character when faced with dealing with the compromising of weaker men. And this was a time for strong men, now weakened when dealing with a mighty challenge. John Fiske writes:

At the very outset (of the Constitutional Convention) some of the delegates began to exhibit symptoms of that peculiar kind of moral cowardice which is wont to afflict free governments, and of which American history furnishes so many instructive examples.  It was suggested that palliatives and half measures would be far more likely to find favour with the people than any thorough going reform, when Washington suddenly interposed with a brief but immortal speech, which ought to be blazoned in letters of gold, and posted on the wall of every American assembly that shall meet to nominate a candidate, or declare a policy, or pass a law, so long as the weakness of human nature shall endure.

"Rising from his president's chair, his tall figure drawn up to its full height, he exclaimed in tones unwontedly solemn with suppressed emotion, 'It is 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 disapprove, how can we afterward 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.' "3


Footnotes:

1. All excerpts are from The Bible and the Constitution of the United States of America published by The Foundation for American Christian Education, Founders: Miss Verna M. Hall and Miss Rosalie J. Slater, both of whom have now gone to their reward which they greatly deserve for the work of restoring the truth about our being founded as a Christian nation ("one nation under God") from original documents from our founding era.

2. Washington had an enormous library on every subject under the sun as well!

3. American historian, author of The Critical Period of American History, 1888, p. 231, verified from a copy in my library.


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