George Washington’s Birthday
[guest post by JVW]
Today commemorates the 283rd anniversary of the birth of George Washington, the Father of Our Country. I’m old enough to remember the days when us schoolkids got both Washington’s Birthday and Lincoln’s Birthday off as holidays, before the two were combined into President’s Day in order to squeeze in a federal holiday for Martin Luther King in January.
To me, George Washington is the greatest American in our country’s history, and certainly one of the finest people who ever lived. There are any number of great biographies of Washington, but a short (126 page) volume by Paul Johnson as part of the Eminent Lives series from Harper Collins is highly recommended for a brief overview with all the key parts covered. My favorite part is in Johnson’s final valedictory on the great man’s life, relating a story about Washington’s post-Presidency years:
One of [Washington’s] later visitors, who spent a day at the house in the general’s company, was young Copley, son of the Anglo-American painter John Singleton Copley. . . . Copley was to become Lord Lyndhurst, three times Lord Chancellor of England, to sit in cabinet with Wellington and Peel; he was the close friend of Disraeli, knew Gladstone and Macaulay, Dickens, Thackeray, and Scott, and the young Tennyson. He met everyone of distinction in Europe, from Talleyrand to Goethe. Yet, when an old man and retired, he said that meeting Washington was the greatest privilege he had enjoyed and that the day at Mount Vernon was the most remarkable day of his entire life.
Happy birthday, sir.
Washington’ letter to the Jewish congregation that had welcomed him to Newport Rhode Island in 1790 is a classic in the history of religious tolerance and shows some of the greatness of the man.
It would be inconsistent with the frankness of my character not to avow that I am pleased with your favorable opinion of my Administration, and fervent wishes for my felicity. May the Children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and figtree, and there shall be none to make him afraid. May the father of all mercies scatter light and not darkness in our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in his own due time and way everlastingly happy.
Lately, it seems we need to be reminded.Mike K (90dfdc) — 2/22/2015 @ 3:45 pm
That’s far from correct.
The Monday Act was passed in 1968, and became effective in 1971. It moved four holidays to Mondays, including Veterans Day, which was moved from November 11 to the last Monday in October, but that was repealed. Memorial Day and Columbus Day are still only on Mondays.
There is no holiday called “President’s Day.” That is a name used in advertisements, although some states called it that, or Washington-Lincoln Day. It is still called George Washington’s Birthday by the federal government, but can never come out on February 22. If February 22 is a Monday, it is observed on February 15.
Lincoln’s Birthday was never a federal holiday. Post Offices and banks were never closed. states that close the schools on (state) holidays. Lincoln’s Birthday was observed only in 20 states in 1982, and in three more states on either the first or second Monday in February.
Martin Luther King’s birthday became a federal holiday in 1986, 15 years after George Washington’s Birthday was moved to the third Monday in February. It was mostly a school holiday before, since 1969, and might have been observed on different days.
How many mistakes is that in one sentence?
You have to correct this.Sammy Finkelman (e806a6) — 2/22/2015 @ 4:52 pm
* Monday Holiday Act.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uniform_Monday_Holiday_ActSammy Finkelman (e806a6) — 2/22/2015 @ 4:55 pm
Washington Monument’s not tall enough, in my opinion.Johnny Mustard (e2a87c) — 2/22/2015 @ 5:31 pm
/hand saluteredc1c4 (589173) — 2/22/2015 @ 5:40 pm
all i know about him is how he liked to make booze and stuff in the white househappyfeet (831175) — 2/22/2015 @ 6:08 pm
Mr. Washington – we could use you now.mg (31009b) — 2/22/2015 @ 6:22 pm
Thank you so much for this post. I agree completely, and adored Johnson’s short biography.
We have decided as a culture not to remember our own history, and what we see every day, I fear, is the result.
Glenn Reynolds wrote something interesting.
The part that struck me is not what our current POTUS thinks or believes, but what we in the electorate do.
Our culture has worked hard on transmitting self-loathing for what built this nation. I wish we had George around to comment.
Thanks again.Simon Jester (97b95d) — 2/22/2015 @ 6:28 pm
But definitely not the guy you want saying “Guten Morgan” to you early Christmas Day.11B40 (844d04) — 2/22/2015 @ 6:53 pm
They made real men in those days, and those men made countries.
We would not consider Washington “electable” today. The violent, right-wing militia, Tea Party extremist. And not very photogenic either, with that powdered hair and those false teeth that always hurt him* and clicked when he talked.
*That’s why the pained expression in his portraits, according to historians.nk (dbc370) — 2/22/2015 @ 7:37 pm
“We” haven’t decided as a culture to not remember our own history.
Never let it be forgotten that only those of a certain political and sociological
bent have decided to do so. Aided and abetted by those of a like thinking political
party they have seized a momentary (relative to the history of mankind) supremacy
of control over the institutions that normally have safe guarded the teaching of
history and it’s exploration.
They’ve decided to expunge our history because it is so fundamentally inspiring and
is antithetical to their pathetic and wrong headed philosophical and societal goals as
to be a threat to their continued control and censorship of those institutions.
They cannot abide how well this country and it’s philosophy of freedom has done when
compared with the rest of the world that they are driven to attempt to reduce this
country to a shadow of it’s past greatness in every student’s eyes.
In the current President they have found the true embodiment of all they hold to be
of value to them and are to be held solely responsible no matter this President’s
personal reasons for his perfidy.
My hope is that he will so dirty and darken the reputation of their ideals and so
emphasize their negative intent they harbor and nurture of the so called liberal and
progressives that they will be removed from and kept out of the positions of power,
influence and applause they now enjoy.
It is a dark time and the light is dim but the universe abhors an imbalance and they and their
minions have imbalanced this country long enough. Too long. I sometimes fear the spring back
that is coming as it may be too powerful and embraced too exuberantly by some that they will
not use enough discretion, tact and the need for measured steps to return us to our unrestrained past and will cause too much turmoil and upset that will itself be disruptive.
A worthy post about an exemplary man who’s every act demonstrated his intelligence, fortitudejakee308 (49ccc6) — 2/22/2015 @ 7:37 pm
and respect for others and his love and recognition of the need for humankind to be free.
I regard Washington as our greatest blessing as a Nation. He created and set the standards we look for in our best and greatest leaders. He was the first man since Cincinnatus to have absolute power in his hands or offered to him and willingly give it back to the people, and he did it at least three times. Most revolutions fail and end up with strongmen taking power in the chaos that reigns, look at the French revolution. I credit men like Washington with our seeing the greatest Republic in history and mankind’s best hope for freedom. I regret we don’t seem ready and are sliding into the trash heap of history but we can not blame our founders. No men in history ever had the shot they gave us. Given the power for evil today’s technology and military power gives a bad government I suspect it will be a long time before we see another opportunity as good. I have no hope of Socialism working any better or producing less misery than it always has before.
Washington is indeed our greatest American hero. Thank you for this tribute.machinist (313c6a) — 2/22/2015 @ 8:03 pm
He is one of those I most admire. A man who could gain great power, use it well, put it down, and walk away.
How far we have come.htom (4ca1fa) — 2/22/2015 @ 8:08 pm
‘Tis a pity (to use an expression popular in Washington’s day) that we celebrate his birthday today by showcasing our most vainglorious and vapid fellow citizens over at the Academy Awards ceremony.JVW (854318) — 2/22/2015 @ 8:28 pm
George Washington was not the greatest American. He is merely the most admired American.
The greatest American is completely unknown to history because there were thousands of him (and her). The greatest American was the person who picked up everything they owned put it on the wagon and went west to clear land and farm it and made a new country where there was none before.kishnevi (426b6a) — 2/22/2015 @ 8:38 pm
He was the first man since Cincinnatus to have absolute power in his hands or offered to him and willingly give it back to the people, and he did it at least three times.
A man who could gain great power, use it well, put it down, and walk away.
You guys have no doubt heard the story that when George III heard that with the American Revolution over Washington planned to resign his commission and return to Mount Vernon the king said, “If he does that, he will be the greatest man who ever lived.” Another story is that when in exile at the end of his life Napoleon was heard to ruefully mutter, “They expected me to be another Washington.”
I think in the last 200+ years when you hear of a revolution in which the victorious side has either slipped into authoritarianism or lost all of their gains, it is almost always because their leaders are nowhere near the caliber of our Founding Fathers, particularly George Washington. How lucky we are to have had him there at the precise moment for his genius to flourish.JVW (854318) — 2/22/2015 @ 8:41 pm
In the Greek National Anthem (ca. 1829), thanks is given to “Washington’s country” for aid to the Greeks during their Revolution. Not America by name.nk (dbc370) — 2/22/2015 @ 8:46 pm
..”George Washington was not the greatest American. He is merely the most admired American.”
Sorry Kishnevi , I must most respectfully disagree, Sir. Those settlers owed the foundation of that great country they built to founders like Washington and to a great extent, Washington himself.machinist (313c6a) — 2/22/2015 @ 8:48 pm
— JVW (854318) — 2/22/2015 @ 8:41 pm —
I had read but forgotten the first and had not heard the second. Thank you.machinist (313c6a) — 2/22/2015 @ 8:50 pm
The closest we have seen in modern times is Reagan. Conservatism would be dead today if not for him. Any credibility the Republican party still has is owed to Newt and the Contract With America. A written list of specific promises that was kept in the 100 days promised. What a concept. Can you imagine any political leader in either party doing that today?machinist (313c6a) — 2/22/2015 @ 8:54 pm
Machinist, I understand your point. Very few men did as he did. But the farmers were already building a country before 1776.kishnevi (426b6a) — 2/22/2015 @ 8:56 pm
There is also this consideration: in these days in which not merely the Presidency has grown too big, but the whole of the government, perhaps we should look for heroes outside the political class.
I understand, Sir, but I think Washington was the antithesis of the political class as we know it today. He reluctantly served his country and then went back to his home and farm. His service almost bankrupted him instead of making him rich.machinist (313c6a) — 2/22/2015 @ 8:59 pm
before the two were combined into President’s Day in order to squeeze in a federal holiday for Martin Luther King in January.
Not sure if most Americans realize, much less even care about, the fact that due to that change, no single American in US history other than King is currently formally honored with a day in his memory. Beyond that, only the individual that is Christopher Columbus is in the pantheon of figures with a holiday, although that honor has been generally rather obscure, touted mainly by Americans of Italian descent, and not widely observed, except by (natch) mainly government workers.
My hope is that he will so dirty and darken the reputation of their ideals and so emphasize their negative intent they harbor and nurture of the so called liberal and progressives
Regrettably, I’m skeptical of that. Always keep in mind the examples of the city of Detroit, etc, and nations like Mexico, France, Venezuela, Greece, Italy and Argentina to know that things cannot just get worse in the US, they can remain very bad indefinitely.
The theory that great nations have a shelf life of around 200 years is being tested on a regular basis nowadays in the US, symbolized by how we now even treat our holidays and figureheads like George Washington.Mark (c160ec) — 2/22/2015 @ 9:07 pm
Today, we stand upon the shoulders of giants…but offer up pygmies in response. Does anyone actually believe that Obama is of the same caliber of Washington? J Adams? Thomas Jefferson (these two men are the ones to whom we owe the greatest debt…they turned over power to political opponents…and did so peacefully…). How about Andrew Jackson? Abraham Lincoln? (James Buchanan might be a better comparison…except Obama hasn’t quite been able to trigger a 2nd Civil War) Even TR is of higher stature as is his cousin/nephew FDR.
It seems that Obama is merely a small man, in every sense of the word, who has done his upmost to hand onto his successor as “lesser”, weaker country than that which was placed into his hands. This is who we, Americans, are today…pygmies, who squeal and squal over scraps of graft like feral dogs fighting over a left over bone…Rich Vail (339dcb) — 2/22/2015 @ 9:43 pm
Well, that’s what happens when you let Detroitans, Mexicans, Francians, Venezuelans, Grecians, Italians, and Argentinanians pick your holidays and figureheads, Mark.nk (dbc370) — 2/22/2015 @ 9:45 pm
My father was the owner/proprietor of Dyer Furniture & Appliance in Lamesa, Texas; from elementary school through high school, I was a sales-, delivery-, copywriting-, and toilet-cleaning employee of said business. Among our product lines were “white goods,” meaning appliances like refrigerators, washer-dryers, disposals, etc., from traditional American brands like Frigidaire & Maytag.
This time every year, my dad had a sale on those goods. It was called, every year in a full-page newspaper ad, our “George Birthington’s Washday Sale.”
Never got old.Beldar (fa637a) — 2/22/2015 @ 11:01 pm
“Presidents Day” doesn’t exist. The holiday is Washington’s Birthday, and has been. A lot of people call it Presidents Day, and I’m not sure why they do, but the Federal government calls it Washington’s Birthday and always has.
So it is not tre that Martin Luther King Jr is the only American with his own day. I think that if we need to have one day celebrating one American, Washington is the clear #1, and I’d say Lincoln is a clear #2. After that it gets harder to say, King will do… I’m just thankful there is not (yet) an FDR day.Gabriel Hanna (64d4e1) — 2/23/2015 @ 8:07 am
Did Washington renounce his White Privilege? No!!!! Did he do any thing to eliminate Rape Culture? No!!!! Did he use Dolphin Safe toilet paper? No!!!! Washington was a Racist!!!Ipso Fatso (10964d) — 2/23/2015 @ 8:37 am