George Washington was born 287 years ago today. "So...?" you may be thinking.
When I was a child (yes, the dinosaurs had died off by then) the windows of elementary classrooms in February were decorated with silhouettes of Washington, and his portrait hung just behind the teacher's desk. It was important to honor our nation’s first president.
Since then, in efforts to condense over 200 years of our nation's history, some schools have begun teaching American history beginning at the Civil War era.
What a pity we have omitted facts about our great heritage. This day, in honor of Washington’s birthday, I submit some relatively unknown facts about this great man.
When Washington married Martha Custis, she was a widow with two children. Although George and Martha had no children of their own, they adopted their two younger grandchildren after the death of Martha’s son John. Remember that; it’s important.
Jared Sparks (1789-1866), noted historian and writer, undertook the huge task of compiling The Writings of George Washington (12 volumes in all).
He interviewed survivors of the American Revolution, quoted Washington’s letters and speeches, and searched public and private archives while composing his work.
Although many stories have circulated about the father of our country, Sparks’ volumes have been trusted as the first to document events and opinions surrounding Washington’s character.
Volume 12 of Sparks’ work includes numerous letters written by Washington’s friends, associates and family members, testifying of his religious character. Below are excerpts from a letter Washington’s granddaughter, Nelly, wrote to Sparks on February 26, 1833, in answer to his inquiry about her grandfather.
“He attended the church at Alexandria…In New York and Philadelphia he never omitted attendance at church in the morning unless detained by indisposition…No one in church attended to the services with more reverential respect…He was a silent thoughtful man. He spoke little generally; never of himself.”
Nelly continued, “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 communed with his God is secret…” (The Writings of George Washington, Vol. XII, p.406).
Robert Lewis, private secretary and nephew to Washington, remarked that he had accidentally witnessed his uncle’s private devotions in his library both morning and evening, seeing Washington in a kneeling posture with an open Bible before him.
So today it’s fitting that we honor the father of our country. What a great example set by this humble, yet noble leader.