Holidays

George Washington, Father of Our Country—Oh, How They Loved Him!

"Washington and His Generals" from the collection of Th Merchant's House Mseum
“Washington and His Generals” from the collection of The Merchant’s House Museum

I know, I know, we already celebrated President’s Day, but today is really Washington’s birthday. (If you want to know why we don’t celebrate his birthday on his birthday, go here.)

Today we remember George Washington; we honor him and celebrate him (sort of), but we don’t love him the way the 19th century loved him and we should.  Not only did he lead the Continental Army to an improbable victory over the  most powerful nation on earth, but by first relinquishing his military commission and then refusing to continue his presidency past two terms, he insured that our revolution would remain true to its republican ideals. Today we enjoy the liberty and freedoms the patriots fought for, though regrettably we too often take them for granted.

In the 19th century, Washington’s birthday was celebrated with bell ringing, cannons, parades, fireworks, and grateful prayer. Countless images of him hung in public places, schools, and private homes throughout the land.

People then were close enough to the founding to understand in a very personal and concrete way the risks the revolutionaries took, the dangers they faced, and the part George Washington played in winning our independence and establishing our freedoms.

Several years ago I visited Mount Vernon with my family on Washington’s birthday. One would imagine that on that day his home would be overrun by tourists and school children who were on vacation. But no—as it turned out there were only three or four others touring the home with us. When we moved outdoors to the kitchen, the laundry, the stable, we were all alone. I should explain that the weather was absolutely miserable. There was no sun; it was bitterly cold and sleeting, which no doubt accounted for the lack of visitors.  Yet the weather somehow enhanced the experience for me. I could really feel the presence of George and Martha Washington in that place on that cold winter day. I will never forget it.

6 thoughts on “George Washington, Father of Our Country—Oh, How They Loved Him!

    1. Thanks so much! How great to know that a former student is reading what I write. You made my day! (Actually the post is by me–Mary–as is the reply. Herb and I write this blog together and sometimes I forget to make the change of authorship !

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  1. I will never forget it either. And now I would like to hang a picture of Geroge Washington in MY Mt. Vernon home. Perhaps painted by Herb Knapp. Is he available for commission?

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  2. Excellent as always. I never liked clumping his birthday into the generic President’s Day. He was so extraordinary that he deserves to have his own day!

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    1. I agree, Sydney. It’s like giving everybody a participation trophy. Not all presidents are equally deserving of honor! George Washington certainly deserves a day of his own.

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