northanger (northanger) wrote,

Landes Vater: The Man, Himself

Adams wrote with understandable jealousy, "The whole history of this Revolution will be a lie, from beginning to end." He knew that Benjamin Franklin and George Washington would become figures of legend, and that the histories would say "Franklin did this, Franklin did that, Franklin did some other damned thing ... Franklin smote the ground and out sprang George Washington, full grown and on his horse ... Franklin then electrified him with his miraculous lightning rod and the three of them–Franklin, Washington, and the horse–conducted the entire Revolution by themselves."1776: Justice for John Adams

Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence: nor is the law less stable than the fact. —John Adams

On the first creation of the dictator at Rome, when they saw the axes carried before him, great awe came upon the people, so that they became more attentive to obey orders. For neither, as was the case under the consuls, who possessed equal power, could the assistance of one of them be invoked, nor was there any appeal, nor any chance of redress but in attentive submission. —Roman History, Books I-III, Titus Livius

if you can imagine growing up black in america you will see, after years of reciting the pledge of allegiance & reading about that damn cherry tree, the picture of a slave ship. you will see how slaves were arranged on ships for maximum capacity, read how bodies were disposed of in the sea & learn about the filth & the noise. then you will learn how women, children & men in chains were bought & sold in american markets. much later, you will read about the nazis.

slave. american. slave-holder. founding father.

several days ago when i saw the names for discovery channel's greatest american survey i immediately thought: George Washington. but then i saw ronald reagan's name & got real.

the united states capital is named Washington. the cut of his jib should be the measure of the man who takes the office of the president of the united states. while that man for 4 to 8 years temporarily navigates this nation he can only hope to fill, figuratively & literally, the big boots of George Washington. few US presidents commanded armies (Grant, Eisenhower), but Washington was our first commander-in-chief & our first president. if Washington & his troops had not won the war of 1776 there would be no united states of america. if the obnoxious and disliked (and our 1st vice-president, 2nd president) John Adams did not persist in his unending quest we would have no declaration of independence. in a nutshell, Washington & Adams represent the beginning nucleus of the executive, legislative & judicial branches of government.

maybe the vision of Washington kneeling & praying humbly in valley forge snow is popular because it fulfills the idea of the christian character of america's most important founding father. however, this iconic Washington dangerously occludes that which needs to be seen. that which makes Washington the greatest american. an american, btw, who smoked & grew marijuana because of his bad teeth.

maybe it would be wise for some to take off their WWJD t-shirts, nail them on the wall of their rooms & take this advice. while you're at it, read Virginia's Statute of Religious Freedom. i think we need to be asking ourselves What Would George Do? (or John, Benjamin or Thomas). it's Houdon's Washington that's closer to the truth because Washington actually posed for it. and when he posed for it there was no pledge of allegiance, no star-spangled banner & patriotism really meant you fought & died for your country.

from the birth of this nation in 1776 to the abolishment of slavery in 1865 is 89 years (ratified in 1865, subsequently ratified by Delaware in 1901, Kentucky in 1976 & Mississippi in 1995) & 188 years to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. i am sure that if other sons & daughters were being raped, sold, whipped, lynched, humiliated, disenfranchised & taken forcibly never to be seen again this span of time would have been much less. time & sacrifice mean different things to different people.

there's something i'm beginning to realize that i've never understood before: my duty as an american citizen is not to the united states of america, the american flag or the american people. understanding this requires that i see Washington as who he was & what he truly believed in. for there are times our nation is divided into slave & free states, the north & south, the red & blue, but what binds as together is the American Constitution written by the masters of hyperstition.

what a big difference between a war of independence that united us & a war on terror that divides us.

Frederick Douglass, for one, believed that the government created by the Constitution "was never, in its essence, anything but an anti-slavery government." Douglass was born into slavery in Maryland but escaped and eventually became a prominent spokesman for free blacks in the abolitionist movement. "Abolish slavery tomorrow, and not a sentence or syllable of the Constitution need be altered," he wrote in 1864: "It was purposely so framed as to give no claim, no sanction to the claim, of property in man. If in its origin slavery had any relation to the government, it was only as the scaffolding to the magnificent structure, to be removed as soon as the building was completed." This point is underscored by the fact that, although slavery was abolished by constitutional amendment, not one word of the original text was amended or deleted. —How to Understand Slavery and the American Founding, Matthew Spalding

George Washington's reputation as a man of moral fortitude reveals more about America's view of morality than it does about the man himself. Washington was an exceedingly bland heroic leader, embodying an eighteenth-century ideal of republican virtue that emphasized duty, sacrifice and honorable disinterest. Flamboyance and daring were emphatically not required. Washington's virtue was admirable, but not overly interesting. —The Moral Washington: Construction of a Legend

Some may say, as I have heard others say, "Well, even if all that is here said be true, it should not be published. We should be permitted to hold intact our traditions and ideals of these men." With this view I cannot agree. History and biography, if written at all, should be written truthfully. —The Religious Beliefs Of Our Presidents, Preface, Franklin Steiner

"The pictures that represent him on his knees in the winter forest at Valley Forge are even silly caricatures. Washington was at least not sentimental, and he had nothing about him of the Pharisee that displays his religion at street corners or out in the woods in the sight of observers, or where his portrait could be taken by 'our special artist!'" —Rev. M.J. Savage

So, what we have here is undoubtedly a piece of patriotic glurge (note that the narrator divulged his knowledge to a reporter in the most thematically appropriately time and place imaginable: Independence Square on the 4th of July) created to express the age-old message that America shall persevere as long as its citizens are virtuous and just and sincere in their love of God and country – a message revealed to and delivered by the most virtuous, just, and revered figure in our national history: the man who secured our independence by leading the Continental Army to victory and who served as our first president, the Father of Our Country himself, George Washington. —Double Vision

In considering the virtues associated with Washington throughout the 19th century, Weems' stories help to unravel what attributes Americans cherished at that time. Piety, for example, stood foremost in the minds of many citizens, especially in the early to mid 1800s, and biblical references were known to everyone. During his lifetime, Washington was often associated with the figure of Moses, leading his people to freedom, a story the people knew well. After his death, perceptions of Washington's relation to God grew. Weems, a parson himself, may have chosen to attach a serene religiosity to Washington as a way to provide a venerated example to the public. One of his best known stories of Washington's piety comes from Weems' account of Washington praying at Valley Forge. Weems tells of a man named Isaac Potts who silently witnesses an unsuspecting Washington, kneeling humbly in the snow, praying for God's blessing of his troops. Although the story was questioned as early as the 1850s, it became emblazoned on the American memory by a painting by Henry Brueckner in the 1860s ... But Washington may not have been as pious as Weems suggests. While Washington regularly attended a Christian church, he would not take communion. On his deathbed, he did not request a minister to be present and asked for no prayers. Biographer Barry Schwartz reports that Washington's "practice of Christianity was limited and superficial, because he was not himself a Christian. In the enlightened tradition of his day, he was a devout Deist–just as many of the clergymen who knew him suspected". —The Moral Washington: Construction of a Legend

Historical and modern Deism are defined by the view that reason, rather than revelation or tradition, should be the basis of belief in God. Deists reject organized religion and promote reason as the essential element in making moral decisions. This "rational" basis was usually founded upon the cosmological argument (first cause argument), the teleological argument (argument from design), and other aspects of what was called natural religion. Deism has become identified with the classical belief that God created but does not intervene in the world, though this is not a necessary component of deism. —Deism

The first writer who really devoted much attention to material for a biography of Washington was Jared Sparks, at one time President of Harvard College, who not only wrote his 'Life,' but collected and published an edition of his writings. In doing this, as well as in his other efforts in American history, Dr. Sparks has placed future generations under great obligation. He was a pioneer in historical investigation. Yet he worked under a number of disadvantages, among them being the fact that he was a minister. Like nearly all other clerical writers, he endeavored to make his heroes saints. He corrected Washington's spelling and grammar, well known to have been poor. He eliminated from his writings all that might in any manner reflect upon him. Instead of a man of flesh and blood, Dr. Sparks gives us a beautifully chiseled statue. More conscientious and careful than his predecessor Weems, he yet follows him in some of his errors. Considering that both Weems and Sparks, who place Washington in such an unenviable light, were clergymen, it was with some pertinency that William Roscoe Thayer said, "Well might the Father of his Country pray to be delivered from the parsons." —The Religious Beliefs Of Our Presidents, Preface, Franklin Steiner

Washington in character and manner was reserved. He kept his own counsel, and few had his confidence. He expressed himself only when he thought it necessary to do so. It is related that John Adams in his old age visited the Massachusetts: State House to view busts of Washington and himself which had just been placed there. Pointing to the compressed lips on the face of Washington, he said, "There was a man who had sense enough to keep his mouth shut." Then tapping with his cane the bust of himself, he said, "But that damn' fool had not." Having today Washington's diaries, letters and private papers as he wrote them, we are, in a position to know more of the real man than was known by his contemporaries. To them he was an enigma. —The Religious Beliefs Of Our Presidents, Preface, Franklin Steiner

Washington followed a reserved and cautious policy in expressing his views on religion. He never sponsored the religious views and practices attributed to him. —The Religious Beliefs Of Our Presidents, Preface, Franklin Steiner

"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 cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections 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. It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government."' (From the Farewell Address.) [NOTE: All these answers to the addresses of the Churches will be found in the Washington section, pp. 151-157. of Harpers 'Encyclopedia of United States History,' and Mr. Ford's 'Writings of Washington.'] —The Religious Beliefs Of Our Presidents, Preface, Franklin Steiner

The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment. —U.S. Constitution: Article II. Section 2. {The War Power | The War on Terrorism and the Commander in Chief Clause: Delegation of the President's Command Authority | Modern Commentators on the Constitution's War Power}

"Two years ago the senate ordered a levy to be held, and an army to be marched out to Algidum; yet we sit down listless at home, quarrelling with each other like women, delighting in present peace, and not seeing that after that short-lived inactivity war will return with interest. That there are other topics more pleasing than these, I well know; but even though my own mind did not prompt me to it, necessity obliges me to speak the truth rather than what is pleasing. I would indeed like to meet with your approval, Quirites; but I am much more anxious that you should be preserved, whatever sentiments you shall entertain toward me. It has been so ordained by nature, that he who addresses a crowd for his own private interest, is more welcome than the man whose mind has nothing in view but the public interest unless perhaps you suppose that those public sycophants those flatterers of the commons, who neither suffer you to take up arms nor to live in peace, excite and work you up for your own interests. When excited, you are to them sources either of position or of profit: and, because, when the orders are in accord, they see that they themselves are of no importance in anything, they prefer to be leaders of a bad cause, of tumults and sedition, rather than of no cause at all. If you can at last become wearied of all this, and if you are willing to resume the habits practised by your forefathers of old, and formerly by yourselves, in place of these new ones, I am ready to submit to any punishment, if I do not in a few days rout and put to flight, and strip of their camp those devastators of our lands, and transfer from our gates and walls to their cities this terror of war, by which you are now thrown into consternation." —Roman History, Books I-III, Titus Livius

Lincoln once explained the relationship between the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence by reference to Proverbs 25:11: "A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver." He revered the Constitution and was the great defender of the Union. But he knew that the word "fitly spoken" – the apple of gold – was the assertion of principle in the Declaration of Independence. "The Union, and the Constitution, are the picture of silver, subsequently framed around it," Lincoln wrote. "The picture was made for the apple – not the apple for the picture." That is, the Constitution was made to secure the unalienable rights recognized in the Declaration of Independence.—How to Understand Slavery and the American Founding, Matthew Spalding

Links: George Washington | Commander-in-Chief | Great Seal of the United States | Seal of the President of the United States | The Great Seal of the United States of America | U.S. Department of State | Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice | Great Seal | The Moral Washington: Construction of a Legend (1800-1920s) | Washington in Prayer | George Washington - The Vestryman Who Was Not A Communicant | Conservatives distort history too! | Jean-Antoine Houdon: Sculptor of the Enlightenment | Jean Antoine Houdon | National Gallery of Art (Permanent Collection) | Jean-Antoine Houdon (National Gallery of Art) | We Pledge Allegiance to the Penguin


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