Founding Fathers Blog

George Washington’s Church

February 4th, 2013

I recently came across a copy of a newspaper called “Globe Leader,” dated January 13, 2013.  It’s a newspaper from New Wilmington, PA. In it there is an article about a Christ Church in Alexandria, VA, where George Washington had a family pew. It’s still there, and it’s the only pew left with a swinging door and a little metal plate with the name “George Washington family.”  Visitors are welcome to sit in it.  There is a list of George’s honorary pall bearers for his funeral, which must have been at this church.

The Church is still an active church, which had a full crowd for its services on Christmas Eve. The author of this article said it was a very nice service. It was an hour and a half long, conducted by a woman, and included communion.

The brochure about this church said it was also attended by Robert E. Lee (who also has a marked pew, but no swinging gate), who, of course, used to live where Arlington National Cemetery is now. During the Civil War, many of the local churches were taken over and turn into hospitals. However, the reputation of Christ Church as George Washington’s place of worship preserved it as a church. It’s reputed to be the oldest church in one of the original 13 colonies.

And the brochure said that it is a tradition for the sitting U.S. President to attend at least one service at Christ Church during their administration, often on a Sunday near Washington’s birthday celebration. No mention of whether or not our current President has attended, or intends to visit. But Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill sat together there on Sunday, January 1, 1942, to observe the World Day of Prayer for Peace.

The construction of this church began in 1767 and was completed in 1773. It still has a vibrant congregation. It can hold up to 550 people, including those who may be seated on the balcony.

There’s a beautiful color picture of the church building on the front page of this newspaper. Might be nice to visit sometime.

And To Think It All Started With 10 Commandments

January 17th, 2013

On the wall in my law office, next to my grand bookcase full of law books, I had a framed cartoon.  It wasn’t a very large cartoon, but it made a point. The cartoon drawing showed a man, presumably a lawyer, standing in front of an enormous bookcase, full of law books. The man’s image of a thought balloon held these words:  “And to think it all started with just 10 Commandments!”

On July 4, 1776, 56 representatives from the original 13 colonies in America chose to begin a new nation. They declared our independence from Great Britain with an inspired document. That was the beginning of the United States of America.

Eventually the leaders of the new nation realized that they needed a new “rule book” with written rules to govern the new nation. Fifty-five representatives from these States created a new rule book. They provided the States with the new Constitution of the United States, adopted September 17, 1787. This new Constitution was 4,543 words long.

These Founding Fathers created a government that was so structured that all the power was to lie in the hands of the People. The People were to remain supreme and the government was to have ONLY those powers granted to it by the People and written into this Constitution. This was a brand new concept. It had never before been attempted.

As one of our Founding Fathers, John Adams, said:  “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

And James Madison, who is known as the Father of the Constitution warned future generations:  “We have staked the future of all our political institutions upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves according to the Commandments of God.”

Thomas Jefferson, another Founding Father, and the author of the Declaration of Independence, told us that “The natural progress of things is for Liberty to yield, and government to gain ground.”

The oldest, and perhaps wisest of this group of stalwart men, added this sage advice:  “I agree to this Constitution . . . because I think a general Government necessary for us . . . and may be a blessing to the people, if well administered; and I believe, farther, that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in despotism (tyranny or dictatorship), as others have done before it, WHEN THE PEOPLE SHALL BECOME SO CORRUPTED as to need despotic government, being incapable of any other.” (Emphasis added).

James Madison added to his above utterance:  “But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?  If men were angels, no government would be necessary, and if angels were to govern men, then neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this:  You must first enable the government to control the governed, and in the next place obligate it to control itself. Without a doubt, the primary control on the government will be its dependence on the People, but experience has taught mankind that other precautions will be necessary as well.”

The authors of the Constitution believed as long as citizens were taught correct principles, were moral and religious, they would govern themselves and would do well. But as Franklin espoused, when the people became less religious, less moral, and more corrupt, then they would require more government, more laws, more rules and regulations. Then the government would become more tyrannical.

It’s a little bit like I used to tell my children as they were young:  “There are no rules until you break them!”

That’s why the original States agreed in their unalterable compact, or contract, what would be required as new states would be added to the Union. The Northwest Ordinance, which was agreed upon at the same time as the Constitution in 1787, held that “Religion, morality and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”

Did you get that? In order to have good government, we must teach morals, religion, and knowledge in our schools.  So why have we allowed the teaching of God, morals, religion, and character to be removed from the curriculum of our schools? Good government cannot be had without these subjects being inculcated in our children.

Because citizens are no longer taught morals, religion or character, they have less reliance on “that little spark of celestial fire called conscience” as George Washington put it. Inevitably this leads to the need for more external controls by government. More laws, more rules, more regulations are passed each year by our Congress.

Publius (the anonymous author of the Federalist Papers, now known to be Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay) were worried about this contingency. As they expressed in the Federalist Papers:  “Our governments seem the most susceptible to the disease of too easily writing and passing an excessive number of new laws.”  Isn’t that exactly what’s happening now? Bills before Congress are so large and so complex and passed so quickly that some representatives and Senators have confessed that they are not able to even read them, much less understand them, before voting on them to pass into law.

Publius also warned:  “it will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood.”

Benjamin Franklin established the University of Pennsylvania, and its motto, which is “Laws without morals are vain.”

John Adams proposed that :  “Statesmen, my dear sir, may plan and speculate for liberty, but it is religion and morality alone, which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free Constitution is pure virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our People . . .they may change their rulers and the forms of government, but they will not obtain a lasting liberty.”

Rather than passing more complex and incoherent laws on guns, or health care, or marriage, or the environment, or even financial institutions, wouldn’t it be wiser and make more sense to listen to and spend more money on following the counsel of our first President, George Washington?  This might require us to return to teaching about morals, character, religion, and yes, even God. Here’s what George Washington advised in his Farewell Address as he retired from the Presidency:

“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…Let it simply be asked, where is the security for property, for reputations, 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…reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

And to think, it all started with just 10 Commandments!

“I Cannot Live Without Books!”

July 20th, 2012

It is interesting and even fascinating to me how much respect and reverence our Founding Fathers had for books. Of course books were then very expensive and dear. And there was no modern technology to compete: no computers, iPads, internet, telephones, cars, refrigerators, radio or television. Still, they knew how important books were to their education, knowledge, getting ahead, and even sometime their very existence.

With apologies to Nancy Sinatra, the Founders of this nation knew “these books were made for reading, and that’s just what you’ll do. One of these days these books will make a scholar out of you!”

George Washington accumulated and read many books about agriculture, farming, fishing and even building. You may still see some of his book collection at his home, Mount Vernon.

Benjamin Franklin’s favorite books were the Bible and “Pilgrim’s Progress.” Franklin’s own book about electricity was the most popluar book in Europe and all the world for years. Ben was apprenticed to his brother, a printer, at an early age, which gave him an unusual access to a world of books. And he took advantage of it.

Patrick Henry didn’t take to books at an early age. He preferred fishing and hunting to learning. At least until he decided to study and become a lawyer.  We know he borrowed Thomas Jefferson’s lawbook, “Coke Upon Littleton,” wherein he made notes for his most impressive “Brutus” speech, which he gave after only 5 days as a member of Virginia’s House of Burgesses. Thereafter books became much more important to him.

John Adams, our second President, love and acquired many books. When John and Abigail were moving from Braintree to Boston, they leased a house on Battle Street, ironically enough called the “White House.” John set aside one of the rooms there to be his study. He agreed that he wouldn’t attempt to move his whole library, only those books he should need. Abigail responded:  “The books you don’t need have yet to be printed!”

When James Madison was preparing for the upcoming Constitutional Convention, he immersed himself in books about history, government, and nation building. At Madison’s request, his friend, Thomas Jefferson, then a minister to France, sent James two trunks of literary cargo from France. The trunks contained more than 100 carefully selected books. According to Jefferson these books were “the most useful reference books available.”

At that same time, John Adams, then a minister to Great Britain, wanted to have his impact on the Constitutional Convention. He wrote and sent to America his two volume work “A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America.” One scholar noted that “even a casual glance of the records of the Federal Convention will show that Adam’s book was used as a sort of reperatory by many speakers” at the Convention. Adams remarked to Abigail that every victory he had ever won had been through his word: spoken or printed.

The most prolific reader of books of all the Founding Fathers was undoubtedly Thomas Jefferson. Many thousands of books were stored in Jefferson’s library and throughout his home at Monticello. During the war of 1812, British troops had burned the city of Washington. Among other things, the Congressional Library was destroyed.

Because of this, Jefferson offered to sell his collection of books to the Federal government to become the nucleus for a new library of Congress. Jefferson’s was the finest collection of books in America, containing thousands of volumes which had been gathered over a period of 50 years. His collection was more than twice the size of the library which had been burned in the war.

Jefferson sold more than 6,700 books to Congress, but was paid only about half their value. It took 10 wagons to transfer the books to Washington.

Jefferson then began to collect books all over again. His new library grew to over 1,000 books before he died. He confessed to his friend and fellow Patriot, John Adams, “I cannot live without books!”

Jefferson had also written or compiled several books himself, including “Notes on Virginia,”  “The Jefferson Bible,” and “The Life and Morals of Jesus.” He revered the Bible, as did all of our Founding Fathers.

Books are not only a great source of information and inspiration, they can also provide relief from toils and troubles. Through books one can escape to any place on the planet and beyond, take part in adventures and discoveries, provide entertainment, and even turn your self into a scholar.

I love books. Like Jefferson, “I cannot live without books.” Even with the new tools and mediums such as “Kindle”, books give me diversion, delight and happiness. I should tell you that some of my favorite books are “Founding Fathers–Uncommon Heroes,”  “Give Me Liberty,”  “The Illegal Trial of Christ,” and “You Can’t Take It With You–So How Will You Leave It Behind?”  all by Steven W. Allen.

These books were made for reading . . . and will make a scholar out of you!

Independence Day – How It Happened – Part 4

July 2nd, 2012

Thomas Jefferson explained that the object of the Declaration of Independence was:

“Not to find out new principles of new arguments never before thought of, not merely to say things which had never been said before; but to place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent, and to justify ourselves in the independent stand we [are] compelled to take.”

The Declaration was intended to be an expression of the American mind. Jefferson wrote of his completed project:  “Whether I had gathered my ideas from reading or reflection I do not know. I know only that I turned to neither book nor pamphlet while writing it.”

The Declaration of Independence is one of the greatest and truly inspired documents of all time. Have you read it lately?  Ezra Taft Benson, Secretary of Agriculture under President Dwight D. Eisenhower, uttered these profound thoughts:

“If we accept the premise that human rights are granted by government, then we must be willing to accept the corollary that they can be denied by government. If Americans should ever come to believe that their rights and freedoms are instituted among men by politicians and bureaucrats, then they will no longer carry the proud inheritance of their forefathers, but will grovel before their masters seeking favors and dispensations. . . . We must ever keep in mind the inspired words of Thomas Jefferson as found in the Declaration of Independence:

“‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.'”

“Since God created man with certain inalienable rights, and man, in turn, created government to help secure and safeguard  these rights, it follows that man is superior to government and should remain master over it, not the other way around.”

One wonders if we, the people, have perhaps forgotten some of these basic principles.

Now, you remember Patrick Henry who stayed home in Virginia instead of attending this Continental Congress?

He and Thomas Jefferson were friends and fellow Virginians. Tom was invited, when he was still studying for the law, to listen at the door of the Virginia House of Burgess, as Patrick gave what became know as his ‘Brutus speech.’ Many years prior to his ‘Give me Liberty speech.’  It has been said that Tom referred to that day as perhaps the most important day in his life–for on that day, as a result of that speech, a flame for freedom and liberty was lighted in his heart.

Patrick Henry did follow through on his resolve to see that the legislature should adopt a new constitution. And they did. It was on July 5, 1776, that Patrick Henry was sworn into office as the first governor of the new State of Virginia under its new State Constitution.

As Thomas Jefferson once said: “In matters of the Revolution, Patrick Henry was our leader. He left us all far behind.”  It may be that without Patrick Henry’s unconquerable spirit, we may not have had that resolution for independence from Richard Henry Lee. We may not have had that spark for freedom and liberty that led to the Declaration of Independence. We may not have realized our libery or freedom as a nation at all!

And yet all most citizens know about Patrick Henry is that he once said:  “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?  Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

Indepence Day – How It Happened – Part 3

June 28th, 2012

The draft of Jefferson’s declaration was submitted to the committee. Benjamin Franklin made a few suggestions and improvements agreed to by Jefferson. They were incorporated into the draft which was submitted to Congress on Friday, June 28, 1776.

It too, was tabled until a vote could be taken on Richard Henry Lee’s resolution to break with Great Britain. That resolution was adopted by Congress on July 2. John Adams thought that day would become the day of celebration. The next day he wrote to his wife, Abigail:

“Yesterday the greatest Question was decided, which ever was debated in America, and a greater, perhaps, never was nor will be decided among men . . . . The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epocha [sic] in the History of the America. –I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty, It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews [sic], Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires, and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

As the new document was being debated, dissected, and even diminished, Thomas Jefferson squirmed in his seat. He sat silently, anxiously, as Congress edited his draft. Dr. Franklin, sitting beside Jefferson, noticed he was writhing a little under the criticism and shortening of his document. Franklin offered some words of consolation. “I have made it a rule” he said, “whenever in my power to avoid becoming the draftsman of papers to be reviewed by a public body.” Franklin then shared a story from his printer days.

“One of [my] friends, an apprentice hatter, had decided to open a shop for himself. His first concern was to have a handsome signboard with a proper inscription.  He composed it in these words:  ‘John Thompson, hatter, makes and sells hats for ready money’, with a figure of a hat subjoined. But he thought he would submit it to his friends for their amendments.

“The first man he showed it to thought the word ‘hatter’ was superfluous becasue it was followed by the words ‘makes hats’. Thompson agreed and struck it out.

“The next friend observed that the word ‘makes’ might as well be omitted, because the customers would not care who made the hats, as long as they were good ones. Thompson agreed and struck it out.

“A third friend suggested eliminating ‘for ready money’ because none of the local merchants sold on credit. Again Thompson bowed to the will of the majority, and now he had a sign which said: ‘John Thompson sell hats.’

“‘Sells hats,’ said his next friend, ‘why nobody will expect you to give them away. What then is the use of that word?’ Again poor Thompson conceded.

“Moments later, the word ‘hats’ went into oblivion when another friend pointed out that there was one painted on the board. And so he was left with a sign that said: ‘John Thompson’ beneath the painted hat.”

John Adams, speaking on behalf of the Committee, took up the defense of the paper. He supported the Declaration with zeal and ability, fighting fearlessly for every word of it. Jefferson gratefully nicknamed Adams the “Colossus” of the important debate. Jefferson himself, never uttered one word in defense of his creation.

The formal Declaration, Tom’s writing, was approved in the late afternoon of July 4th, 1776. Only John Hancock as President of the Congress, and Charles Thompson, who attested as secretary actually signed it on that date. The other delegates affixed their signatures to the official engrossed copy on August 2, 1776.

To be continued….

Independence Day – How It Happened – Part 2

June 26th, 2012

The committee for the preparation of a draft of a declaration of independence was made up of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Roger Sherman and Robert Livingston. They met together to decide which of them would write the intial document for consideration. It was proposed that Benjamin Franklin, the oldest, wisest, most experienced of the team should be the scrivener. He declined, arguing that it wouldn’t be proper or smart for him to write the original document, as his son, William, had remained a loyalist, and was then the Governor of New Jersey.

Both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson had received recognition as writers, so it seemed likely that one of them should be selected. Jefferson noted only, the committee “desired me to do it.”

John Adams left a more interesting account.

“The sub-committee met. Jefferson proposed me to make the draft. I said: ‘I will not. You ought to do it.’

[Jefferson] Oh, no! Why will you not? You ought to do it.’

‘I will not.’

[Jefferson] ‘Why?’

‘Reason’s enough.’

[Jefferson] ‘What can be your reasons?’

‘Reasons are: first-you are a Virginian, and a Virginian ought to appear at the head of this business. Reason second-I am obnoxious, suspected, and unpopular. You are very much otherwise. Reason third-You can write ten time better than I can.’

‘Well’, said Jefferson, ‘if you are decided, I will do as well as I can.'”

Jefferson wrote his masterpiece in 17 days, after his attendance at the congressional meetings during the day.

Tom was a young attorney, 33 years of age. He turned to “neither book nor pamphlet to pen his timeless words.

To be continued…

Independence Day – How It Happened – Part 1

June 24th, 2012

One of our great National Holidays is coming up soon–Independence Day! This year it falls on the 4th of July. Oh yeah, every year it falls on the 4th of July–that’s the day we celebrate.

Most of us remember that we celebrate this Holiday to commemorate the signing of the Declaration of Independence. That magnificent inspired document by which our Founding Fathers declared that the 13 colonies of Great Britain are now free and independent states.

A new country was created!

However, it seems to me, that many of us Americans have forgotten some interesting and significant details that transpired in connection with this historic event. Some that we learned in 8th grade, and some that our teachers never got around to explaining to us. So I’m going to remind you of just a few.

The Continental Congress, made up of representatives from each of the 13 colonies, met in Philadelphia in 1776 to consider the hositilies taking place in Massachussets and now New York. You’ll recall that at the last Continental Congress, George Washington was unanimously appointed as the Commanding General of the brand new United Colonial Army.

Some of the same delegates that were present at the First Continental Congress, were appointed by their respective colonies to continue their representation. These include Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston, and Richard Henry Lee. Notably absent were George Washington, now conducting a war, and Patrick Henry, two respected, inspiring and influential Virginians.

We know why George Washington wasn’t there. Patrick Henry was elected to return, but he declined to attend. He had been convinced by reading a pamphlet written by none other than John Adams, that the time had come to make certain that each of the colonies declared themselves independent and adopted their own new State Constitutions. Patrick Henry was determined to advance such a Constitution through the legislature, or House of Burgesses in Virginia. This he would do instead of returning to the Continental Contress. He thought John Adams was correct in his reasoning.

However, Henry knew that the Continental Congress also needed to conduct some serious business. Therefore, he convinced Richard Henry Lee, who would attend the Congress, to present a proposal, a resolution that the Colonies now declare themselves free and independent States. Lee went to Philadelphia and indeed presented this important resolution.  That proposal may not have even been raised for discussion had not Patrick Henry insisted that it be introduced by a fellow Virginian–Richard Henry Lee.

The proposal was introduced on June 7, 1776. The President of the assembly, John Hancock, could see that most of the delegates were still unsure of separation from the mother country, despite the hostilities. But they were advancing to that conclusion. As a result, the proposition was tabled until additional reasoning could be considered.  But so that as little time as possible should be lost in the event that Lee’s proposition was approved, John Hancock appointed a committee to prepare a draft of a declaration, should one be called for.

To be continued…..

President’s Day

February 7th, 2012

I was asked to give a presentatio about our Founding Fathers to an advanced placement Senior High School Government class just a few years ago. It was only a couple of weeks before their school calendar showed a vacation day called Presidents Day.

So I asked the class “What is Presidents Day all about?”

The most common response from the students was “just another reason to have a holiday–a three day weekend.” When I persisted in wanting to know which President to honor the most common response was “it doesn’t matter. Choose your favorite President, or honor all of them.” These are honor students now.

“Do you mean it could be President Garfield, or Truman, or Carter?” I asked.

“Yes, of course,” they replied, almost in unison.

When I told them of the reason for Presidents Day they were unaware and a little surprised. I told them when I was in high school we honored President Abraham Lincoln on his birthday, which is February 12–two days prior to Valentine’s Day. And then we honored President George Washington on his birthday which is February 22.

These two Presidents were considered by most historians to be our two greatest presidents, I explained. When I asked them why, they came up with the answer that one was our first President who valiantly fought the Revolutionary War. The other won the Civil War which kept the Union together.

I asked the class: “could there be any other reason to validate their greatness?” With some coaching, it became apparent that their greatness also was because of their character.

Character is defined as “the complex of mental and ethical traits marking a person; moral excellence.”  Abraham Lincoln is often referred to as “Honest Abe,” and George Washington is remembered for his words: “I cannot tell a lie.” They were honest. To be honest is to be free of deception, truthful, genuine and marked by integrity.

So we decided in that class that honesty in our leaders is a desirable quality of character. We have had some presidents who fell a little bit short of that character trait. For example, Richard “Tricky Dick” Nixon and Bill “it depends on what your definition of ‘is’ is” Clinton. Both of them did some good things as President. However, both left stains on the office of president.

It seemed to us that Presidents of this Country should be good examples of great character and honesty. It amazes me that some voters today seem to be of the opinion that character doesn’t really matter as long as they get the job done. Look what’s happened to our Country with that attitude.

Anyway, several years ago it was determined that we as a Nation, needed a day to celebrate civil rights–not “the Bill of Rights”–but civil rights. So Martin Luther King’s birthday in January was chosen as our “Civil Rights Day.”

Well, we didn’t have any extra days to take off from work, so it was decided to join Lincoln’s and Washington’s birthdays into one commemoration and call it Presidents Day. So you see, Presidents Day was intented to continue to honor Abe Lincoln and George Washington. But todays generation doesn’t really know that.

Personally, I believe we should make Civil Rights day an honorary day, but not a paid holiday. We should instead continue to honor the character and the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. We truly need something to remind us that character is important and honesty is to be expected in a national leader. Remembering the characters of these two Presidents would go a long way in that regard.

I think we should put those two Presidents back into their own birthdays, separate from a Presidents Day. Let them each have their own birthday honored again. Honestly!

Christmas with George Washington

December 18th, 2011

Christmas tree

Christmas with George Washington

When you are visited by someone as admired and revered as George Washington, you tend to get speechless, reserved and a little discomfited. That’s how we were when George came for Christmas.

We were saved because we knew George and Martha were good hosts, and so were very likely to be good guests as well. We prepared a customary Christmas dinner to be served in our dining room. So there was turkey, ham, roast beef brisket, mashed potatoes, gravy, peas, salad, and Kari’s famous orange rolls. Then, for dessert, Linda’s mouth watering Christmas cheesecake.

We learned that around a dinner table, George was not disinclined to share accounts of his magnificent life experiences. He first shamelessly praised the kitchen staff, Linda, Kari and Steve– on the sumptuous meal, and asked for more dessert.

Then he went on to remark that he and Martha had welcomed many guests over the years at their home at Mount Vernon. But had never had quite as fine a spread as we had presented to them this Christmas. George always was very polite and complimentary.

He told of one occasion when he and Martha ate a meal alone together at Mount Vernon, and he commented to her that he believed that was the first time they had dined alone in more than 15 years. They were always welcoming company, even some strangers to their dinner table.

He then told us how he and Martha met. After his heroics in the French and Indian War, he was on his way, traveling to Williamsburg to meet with the Governor. (By the way, he was never braggadocious, but was very humble and circumspect in his explanations.)  On his way he was invited to stop and dine with Mr. Richard Chamberlayne, a friend. A certain recent widow by the name of Martha Dandridge Custis was also a visitor at the Chamberlayne home that afternoon. She was the loveliest widow in all of Virginia.

They were mutually pleased on their first meeting and would fall in love with each other. George stayed longer that he had anticipated and had to spend the night at the Charmberlayne’s. As did Martha. They enjoyed a nice meal together–but not quite as nice as the one they presently attended.

Several days later, George visited Martha at her home (which ironically was known as the White House Plantation. George never got to live in the President’s Mansion, the White house, although he chose the spot where it would be built.) At this second meeting George and Martha became engaged. He told us some of the details of their wedding on January 6, 1759.

George went on to boast about how Martha had been so supportive of him all of their married life. It was obvious he loved her very much. She even visited him, and stayed a few weeks during that terrible winter at Valley Forge. She encouraged George to attend the Constitutional Convention as was requested by James Madison. This eventually led to the adoption of the U.S. Constitution, and to George being elected unanimously to the 1st national presidency.

George shared several accounts of incidents during his life when he knew he had been protected by the “hand of Providence.” Including one battle in the French and Indian War when he had two horses shot out from under him and found four bullet holes through his coat. There were also many such incidents during the Revolutionary War when he was aware of such protection. He acknowledged more that 57.

George told of when he was sworn in as the first U.S. President–he was uncomfortable, not certain he could actually carry out his new duties properly. So after recitation of the oath of office, with his hand on the Bible, he spontaneously added the words “So help me God!”

He could feel the direct assistance of Heavenly help all during his administration. He was thankful for the maxim he learned as a youth: “work to keep alive in your breast that little spark of light we call conscience.” When he left office, he left this counsel: “Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion.”

George was a quietly religious man who love the Savior. He was thrilled to see the growth in knowledge, technology, and the many new comforts that had come into our life. He believed these were all as a direct result of the courage the Founding Fathers showed in creating a country based on liberty, freedom of religion, and individual accomplishment, not government interference.

Both he and Martha were overjoyed to witness our preparations and decorations in celebration of the birth of the Christ Child. They loved the soft Christmas music, the lights, ribbons and banners, the smells of Christmas treats, and the gifts under the Christmas tree. And they could feel our love, for each other, for the country, and for the Savior of all mankind.

Merry Christmas George . . .and Martha!

George Washington: A Lesson He Learned…and We Should, Too!

September 2nd, 2011

I was in the food line at a cafeteria the other day when I was disturbed by a raucous, bellicose, guffaw. For those of you who are not close to your dictionary, that means there was an outbreak of loud laughter. I immediately said to myself what kind of a buffoon would resort to such a boorish, rude behavior? It reminded me of that particular rule George Washington had learned as a youth when his tutor was stressing penmanship, and allowing George to learn certain rules of social conduct as he practiced his writing skills. The one I recalled said something like: “laugh not too loud or long in company (or public, or something like that).”

In George’s own handwriting were found transcriptions of what were termed “The 110 Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation.” These rules made a lasting impression on the comportment of the Father of Our Country, George Washington. Historians agree that the early repetition of these rules helped develop the character of George Washington.

Perhaps these (or similar) rules should once more be promulgated in the schools. It seems that instead of becoming more civil and polite our society has become more coarse and less refined. I can recall the time in 8th grade when we students were proud to be seated for a week or two at the “manners table” to learn proper etiquette.

Conversation and actions in public have slowly become less tolerable of those who do not stoop to the lowest common denominater of public discourse. It has become a matter of consternation for the polite bearing of the maturing generation. As I looked up that particular rule, I found I had misquoted it. The rule stated: “Do not laugh too loud or too much at any Publick Spectacle.” (Spelling and capitalization as George had used.)

Then I took note of some of the additional maxims. For example: “Every action done in company, ought to be with Some sign of respect, to those who are present.”

And “Undertake not what you cannot Perform but be Careful to keep your Promise.”

And how about: “Use no reproachful language against anyone neither curse nor revile.”

And for foreign visitors: “Speak not in an unknown Tongue in company . . . . Subline matters treat seriously.”

I do hope we never need to admonish: “Being set at meat Scratch not neither Spit Cough or blow your nose except there’s a necissity for it.” Although I was recently at a table with someone who would have been well advised to remember that rule of conduct.

Perhaps we should all take a closer look at our own behavior in company with others. It may be proper for us to become more polite and considerate of others. We would do well to take this lesson for conduct from our Founding Father: George Washington.

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