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George Washington
Christian Statesman


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Here's what it says:

  • Secularists claim Washington was a deist or irreligious
  • He was a Christian who explicitly referred to Jesus Christ
  • He would not have supported the ACLU's vision of an atheistic America

We need more information than is found in this article by David Barton

Until you send us this article, readers of this page will have to be content with the following dialogue on American OnLine's "Separation of Church and State" Discussion Board.

General Orders issued by Washington

The General most earnestly requires and expects...of all officers and soldiers, not engaged on actual duty, a punctual attendance on divine service, to implore the blessings of heaven upon the means used for our safety and defense.—General Orders. Fitzpatrick 3:309. (1775.)

The honorable Continental Congress having been pleased to allow a chaplain to each regiment,...the colonels or commanding officers of each regiment are directed to procure chaplains accordingly, persons of good characters and exemplary lives, [and] to see that all inferior officers and soldiers pay them a suitable respect and attend carefully upon religious exercises. The blessing and protection of Heaven are at all times necessary, but especially so in times of public distress and danger.—General Orders. Fitzpatrick 5:244. (1776.)

The commander-in-chief directs that divine service be performed every Sunday at eleven o'clock in those brigades [in] which there are chaplains; those which have none [are] to attend the places of worship nearest to them. It is expected that officers of all ranks will by their attendance set an example to their men. 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. The signal instances of providential goodness which we have experienced, and which have now almost crowned our labors with complete success, demand from us in a peculiar manner the warmest returns of gratitude and piety to the Supreme Author of all good.—General Orders. Fitzpatrick 11:342. (1778.)

Divine service is to be performed tomorrow in the several brigades or divisions. The commander-in-chief earnestly recommends that the troops not on duty should universally attend with that seriousness of deportment and gratitude of heart which the recognition of such reiterated and astonishing interpositions of Providence demand of us.—General Orders. Fitzpatrick 23:247. (1781.)

The commander-in-chief orders the cessation of hostilities between the United States of America and the king of Great Britain to be publicly proclaimed tomorrow at twelve o'clock,...after which the chaplains with the several brigades will render thanks to almighty God for all his mercies, particularly for his overruling the wrath of man to his own glory, and causing the rage of war to cease among the nations....

The proclamation...must afford the most rational and sincere satisfaction to every benevolent mind, as it puts a period to a long and doubtful contest, stops the effusion of human blood, opens the prospect to a more splendid scene, and, like another morning star, promises the approach of a brighter day than has hitherto illuminated the Western Hemisphere; on such a happy day, a day which is the harbinger of peace, a day which completes the eighth year of the war, it would be ingratitude not to rejoice!—General Orders. Fitzpatrick 26:334. (1783.)

In article <19990725155305.24130.00001825@ng-fw1.aol.com>, edarr1776@aol.com (EDarr1776) writes:

>Kevin quotes George Washington, ostensibly in support of the idea that George
>favored posting the Ten Commandments in courtrooms and schoolrooms:

>   George Washington
>   "Father of Our Country"
>   While just government protects all in their religious rights, true religion
>   affords to government its surest support.
>   George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, John
>   C. Fitzpatrick, editor (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing
>   Office, 1932), Vol. XXX, p. 432 n., from his address to the Synod of
>   the Dutch Reformed Church in North America, October 9, 1789.<<
>But note:
>1.  Washington doesn't mention Christianity. 

Oh yeah, I forgot, he was a Buddhist.

>At this particular time he had
>a feud going with the clergy over his refusal to take communion at church,

I do not belong to any church, I do not take orders from any clergy, and my views on Communion might just well parallel those of Washington (I haven't studied his views on the subject). Whatever theological disagreements Washington had with the clergy of his day, Washington strenuously opposed the secularist ideology of the ACLU.

>which he said he attended because Martha asked him to (Washington refused
>communion his entire adult life -- it appears he had serious reservations
>about the divinity of Jesus, and the symbolism of the wine and the bread).

But he was still religious, and like Jefferson considered himself a true Christian, and did not hesitate to use his office to further that religion. He did not believe in the separation of religion and state.

>He ended the feud by ending his attendance at church services altogether.

I applaud him. I encourage Christians everywhere to stop substituting church attendance for full-orbed obedience to God's Law.   http://members.aol.com/Patriarchy/No_Ecclesiocracy/index.htm

>2. Washington doesn't mention the Ten Commandments. Brookhiser's biography
>reveals that instead of the Decalogue, Washington used a Jesuit list of more
>than 110 "virtuous actions" to guide his life

which undoubtedly included the Ten Commandments. This is a sophist line of argumentation. It's like saying Jews don't abide by the Ten Commandments because they have 613 commandments. The Ten Commandments are a summary of God's Law. Washington and the other Founders unquestionably had all Ten memorized, and used a longer summary. Small minds need small summaries; great minds need longer ones.

>-- along with a copy of the
>life of Cincinnatus, the pagan Roman, who was Washington's idol and after
>whom he patterned his life (hence the war veterans' group was "the Society of
>the Cincinnati," and the city in Ohio named to honor Washington is called

Admiration of a non-Christian who exhibits Christian virtues does not make one a non-Christian. I like Rudolph J. Rummel, prof at Univ of Hawaii, nominated for Nobel Peace Prize. He is not a Christian. Does that mean I am not a Christian?

>3. Washington says "true religion." What did he mean by that?

It simply doesn't matter what exactly he meant. It proves that he did not believe in the separation of religion and state. This is the end of the argument.

(The Founders frequently spoke of "true religion." It obviously meant some form of Christianity. The ACLU says Presidents shouldn't speak of religion at all. Washington obviously disagreed.)

>Here's a
>clue: To dedicate the U.S. Capitol he wore the Masonic apron sewn for him by
>the wife of his life-long friend and companion at war, Lafayette.

Masons are generic Christians. They are certainly not anti-religion. Their goal was not to strip America of all religion.

>and Lafayette corresponded at length about the virtues of the Masonic

Washington was not against the government advancing Christianity, which is what this discussion board is about.

When the Chiefs of the Delaware Indians came to Washington to ask for assistance in educating their youth to become civilized, Washington said:

You do well to wish to learn our arts and ways of life, and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ. . . . Congress will do everything they can to assist you in this wise intention.
The Writings of GeoWashington, Jared Sparks, ed., (Boston: Ferdinand Andrews, 1838) XV:55, from his speech to the Delaware Indian Chiefs, May 12, 1779.

>4. Finally, note that at the time Washington said this, there were few
>dedicated courtrooms (the U.S. Supreme Court didn't get it's own home until
>1935), and far fewer public schools.

The principle had been CLEARLY established: This is a nation "under God," and there was no separation of religion and government. To overturn such clear theocratic principles would have been revolutionary. The Constitution did not even remotely attempt this.

>For Kevin to make Washington's quote -- or indeed any of these quotes --
>applicable, he must first demonstrate:
>A. The "true religion" to which these fellows refer is Christianity alone,
>and not liberty (as Adams said); and

Where did Adams say that the religion of the Founders was "liberty."

The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. If "Thou shalt not covet" and "Thou shalt not steal" were not commandments of Heaven, they must be made inviolable precepts in every society before it can be civilized or made free.
J.Adams: A Defense of the Constitution of Government of the United States of America (Phila: Wm Young, 1797) III:217, from "The Right Constitution of a Commonwealth Examined," Letter VI.

This is not pure "liberty." This is a nation under the Ten Commandments.

John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, June 28, 1813:

The general principles, on which the Fathers achieved independence, were the only Principles in which that beautiful Assembly of young Gentlemen could Unite....And what were these general Principles? I answer, the general Principles of Christianity, in which all these Sects were United: . . . Now I will avow, that I then believe, and now believe, that those general Principles of Christianity, are as eternal and immutable, as the Existence and Attributes of God; and that those Principles of Liberty, are as unalterable as human Nature and our terrestrial, mundane System.
Lester J. Capon, ed., The Adams-Jefferson Letters 2 vols. (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1959), 2:339-40

As no truth is more clearly taught in the Volume of Inspiration, not any more fully demonstrated by the experience of all ages, than that a deep sense and a due acknowledgment of the growing providence of a Supreme Being and of the accountableness of men to Him as the searcher of hearts and righteous distributor of rewards and punishments are conducive equally to the happiness of individuals and to the well-being of communities....I have thought proper to recommend, and I hereby recommend accordingly, that Thursday, the twenty-fifth of April next, be observed throughout the United States of America as a day of solemn humiliation, fasting, and prayer; that the citizens on that day abstain, as far as may be, from their secular occupation, and devote the time to the sacred duties of religion, in public and in private; that they call to mind our numerous offenses against the most high God, confess them before Him with the sincerest penitence, implore His pardoning mercy, through the Great Mediator and Redeemer, for our past transgressions, and that through His Holy Spirit, we may be disposed and enabled to yield a more suitable obedience to His righteous requisitions in time to come; that He would interpose to arrest the progress of that impiety and licentiousness in principle and practice so offensive to Himself and so ruinous to mankind; that He would make us deeply sensible that "righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people" [Proverbs 14:34].

>B. They had thought at all of public schools, though the idea wouldn't be
>significant for more than 40 years; and

The first compulsory education law was 1642. Public schools are found in every state, and explicitly mentioned in several state constitutions at the time the Constitution was drafted. Christians like Benjamin Rush were the first to advocate public schools.

>C. They had given any thought at all to the curriculum of a public school;
>D. They had concluded that the Ten Commandments would be suitable for
>children (Jefferson, Franklin, and others thought the Bible unfit for young

You mean the violent and complex parts of the Bible, not the Ten Commandments. You're saying the Bible should be taught in an age-appropriate manner. Not a single person in the Religious Right would disagree with this.

None of Ed's arguments proves that the Founders attempted to secularize America.

In article <19990729124332.28727.00001305@ng-ci1.aol.com>, uwolf@aol.com (U Wolf) writes:

>>>But note:
>>>1.  Washington doesn't mention Christianity. 
>>KC:  Oh yeah, I forgot, he was a Buddhist.
>No, he was a Christian, but he clearly understood the difference between
>Church and State, and when making a State statement, he properly did not
>mention his religion.

This is utter nonsense.

Congress was sitting in New York on April 30, 1789, when Washington took the oath of office as Chief Executive. From his Inaugural Address:

Such being the impressions under which I have, in obedience to the public summons, repaired to the present station, it would be peculiarly improper to omit, in this first official act, my fervent supplications to the Almighty Being, who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes, and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success the functions allotted to his charge.
      In tendering this homage to the great Author of every public and private good, I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own; nor those of my fellow-citizens at large, less than either. No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the affairs of men, more than the people of the United States. Every step, by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation, seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency. And, in the revolution just accomplished in the system of their united government, the tranquil deliberations and voluntary consent of so many distinct communities, from which the event has resulted, cannot be compared with the means by which most governments have been established, without some return of pious gratitude along with a humble anticipation of the future blessings which the past seem to presage. These reflections, arising out of the present crisis, have forced themselves too strongly on my mind to be suppressed. You will join with me, I trust, in thinking that there are none under the influence of which the proceedings of a new and free government can more auspiciously commence.

In his Farewell Address, Washington reminded the nation:

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.—

These statements clearly violate the Supreme Court's concern that believers not be favored over unbelievers, and the Humanist myth that religion be kept private.

>>I do not belong to any church, I do not take orders from any clergy, and
>>my views on Communion might just well parallel those of Washington
>>(I haven't studied his views on the subject).

>Your making a great assumption here, since you haven't studied his views upon
>the subject.  And if you don't belong to a Church, what do you call yourself?
>a Lapsed Christian?

Which denomination did each of the Apostles belong to?

>>But he was still religious, and like Jefferson considered himself a true
>>Christian, and did not hesitate to use his office to further that religion.
>>He did not believe in the separation of religion and state.

>That is totally wrong for Both men you are quoting.  They DID believe in the
>seperation of Church and State, I.E. that no STATE Church should be
>established, this country was founded by people in large part fleeing a State
>with an Official Church.

I agree with you in asserting that they believed in a separation of CHURCH and state, but not a separation of CHRISTIANITY and State.

>>Masons are generic Christians.
>Ah, Excuse Me?  Masonry is not a Religion, and does not, and did not even in
>Washington's day demand that membership be composed of people who worshiped
>the God of Abraham. 

But they do not PROHIBIT Christians from joining, so the fact that so-and-so was a member of the Masons does not prove he was not a Christian.

>>Washington was not against the government advancing Christianity,
>Actually he was totally against it.  So your simply wackers.

My simply wackers? What about them?

How do the quotes above show Washington to be against using the office of President to advance religion? He clearly advanced belief over unbelief, a cardinal sin according to the modern Supreme Court.

>> The Writings of GeoWashington, Jared Sparks, ed., (Boston: Ferdinand
>> Andrews, 1838) XV:55, from his speech to the Delaware Indian Chiefs,
>> May 12, 1779.

> >Yep, but was that George Washington the Private Citizen, or George Washington
>the President. It depends on how they approched him....

The Delaware Chiefs came to Washington in his capacity as President. President Washington spoke of Congress assisting them in teaching Christianity as an act of State.

> Even a Sitting
>President can speak as a private Citizen, and BTW, that proof text quote is
>just as mangled as any fundamentalist idiot can do.

How so?

>>The principle had been CLEARLY established: This is a nation "under God,"
>>and there was no separation of religion and government. To overturn
>>such clear theocratic principles would have been revolutionary. The
>>Constitution did not even remotely attempt this.

>Sorry, No.  Seperation of Church and State does not mean that any one in
>Government can not speak of their own religious convictions as a private
>Citizen, or even as an official act.  The difference has to do with the
>creation of a State Church...

You're right. But the posting of the Ten Commandments does not benefit any church or denomination over another.

On June 3, 1783, Washington sent a circular letter to the governors of the thirteen states from his headquarters in Newburgh, New York. He closed that letter with a prayer that God would

most graciously be pleased to dispose us all, to do Justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that Charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind, which were the characteristicks of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy Nation.

The characteristics he listed -- charity, humility, pacific temper -- identify the "Divine Author" as Jesus Christ, whose "example" we are to follow.By referring to Jesus Christ as the "Divine Author of our blessed religion," Washington implied his belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ. Concerning this passage, one of Washington's biographers, Henry Cabot Lodge declared categorically, "Washington either believed in the divinity of Christ or when he wrote those words he deliberately stated something which he did not believe." Another biographer, Paul F. Boller, Jr., ( George Washington and Religion, Dallas: SMU Press, 1963, p76) notes that while Paine and other deists refer to Jesus as "an amiable and virtuous man," such references are entirely absent from Washington's writings: " . . . nowhere in Washington's letters does there appear a humanistic reference, direct or implied, to Jesus and His teachings."

The conclusion is inescapable. If Washington was a deist, he was a liar and a hypocrite as well. And if the pressure of the Christian electorate in a Christian nation was so great that those who believed in a separation of God and state were too timid to articulate it in public and insert the concept into any legally binding charters or laws, then the concept does not legally exist!

George Washington to Meshech Weare, et al, June 8, 1783, Circular Letter of Farewell to Army

In article <1998042421043700.RAA21787@ladder01.news.aol.com>, ernbarth@aol.com (ErnBarth) writes:

>My point is that our nation, although it has been filled with Christians, was
>not founded on Christian principles, but Deistic ones.
>In other words, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and
>many others did not believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

You must have read Woodward's biography, George Washington: The Image and the Man, who says on p. 142:

The name of Jesus Christ is not mentioned even once in the vast collection of Washington's published letters.

And yet, in The Writings of George Washington, JC Fitzpatrick, ed., Wash. DC: US Govt Printing Office, 1932, Vol 15, p.55 we read Washington telling the Delaware Indian Chiefs,

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."
(from speech to the Delaware Indian Chiefs on May 12, 1779.

In his handwritten prayer book, which he carried with him, the Name "Jesus Christ" appears sixteen times, and also appeared numerous times in varied forms, including "Lord Jesus."

On May 2, 1778, when the Continental Army was beginning to emerge from its infamous winter at Valley Forge, Commander-in-Chief Geo 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.
(Writings, (1932) XI:342-343, General Orders of 5/2/1778)

US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall said of Washington,

[H]e was a sincere believer in the Christian faith and a truly devout man.

Gunning Bedford, who signed the Constitution, gave Washington's funeral oration, in which he said

To the character of hero and patriot, this good man added that of Christian. . . . Although the greatest man upon earth, he disdained not to humble himself before his God and to trust in the mercies of Christ.


Unconfirmed Quotations

The following quotations have been seen and heard in numerous books, periodicals, editorials, speeches, etc. However, after expending a great deal of time and energy, we are unable to confirm their authenticity. They may still surface (a primary document from James Madison surfaced as late as 1946) but after extensive efforts to verify their veracity, we recommend that you refrain from using them at this time. One may only speculate as to how these quotes originated. In some cases, the errors appear obvious. In others, there are historical clues and possibilities. In the final analysis, the words in question are completely consistent not only with the character of these men, but also with the character of their era to include U. S. Supreme Court decisions. Nonetheless, only primary documentation will justify pulling these quotes off of the shelf. We offer brief comments where appropriate, to include supporting quotations and citations.

2. It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible. -- George Washington (unconfirmed)

Although the modern secularists avoid his numerous religious maxims, Washington's views on religion are easily documented. He often spoke on religious themes, to include the Ruler of Nations, the light of Revelation, and the symbiotic relationship between the Church and the state. There is overwhelming evidence to support this thought as belonging to Washington. However, since the quote has not been documented to date, it appears unlikely to be found. Too much research has been done on the life of Washington to see the prospect of a new quotation.

There is a very real possibility that the quotation has its origin in an 1835 biography by James K. Paulding. In a description of Washington's character, with supporting quotations, Paulding declares Washington to have said:

It is impossible to account for the creation of the universe without the agency of a Supreme Being. It is impossible to govern the universe without the aid of a Supreme Being.[9]

The similarities are obvious; a paraphrase of these quotes could have easily generated the words in question. However, we have not been able to trace Paulding's cite to a more scholarly reference. He offers no footnotes. For an extensive selection of Washington's religious sayings, see the Maxims of Washington: Political, Social, Moral, and Religious, John F. Schroeder, ed. (Mount Vernon, Virginia: The Mount Vernon Ladies Association, 1942). (The book has also been reprinted, albeit in a slightly different format. We recommend the older versions.)

9. James K. Paulding, A Life of Washington (New York: Harper &Brothers, 1835), Vol. II, p. 209.


We hope these comments and analyses help our readers in their own research and rhetoric. To those who have used the above quotations, do not be discouraged. They have a source. We are simply unable to take them to an original, primary document, which is the standard for which we must all strive. In this regard, we have traversed the learning curve.

As the Church/state debates continue, we are all called to a higher standard of scholarship. Advocates of a secular society use the slightest discrepancy to advance their own intolerant and bigoted agenda. Ignoring their own weaknesses and failures, they attempt to discredit both the message and messenger of America's religious history. Their efforts are futile, however, for the religious foundations of America, to include the interactions between church and state, are well-documented and easily-unearthed. Now is the time to clean things up.


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