Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Two Remarks on George Washington

Emanuel Leutze's 1851 painting of Washington
Crossing the Delaware--the surprise attack on British
forces at the Battle of Trenton, Christmas night 1776.
Permit me just two more remarks about George Washington before we move on.  George Washington wore  his Masonic Apron and other lodge insignia for the laying of the cornerstone of the United States Capitol in 1793.  If an American President today appeared in Masonic insignia there would be a huge outcry from Catholics on the right and secularists on the left.  I think we need to pay attention however to the significance of his wearing these symbols of a private affiliation for the performance of a public act.  While I don’t think one could say—given the earlier entries in this series of blogs—that Washington conceived of this Republic as a “Christian Nation” or a “Judeo-Christian Nation” as some of the advocates of keeping atheistic displays off the Leesburg Courthouse Lawn, Washington certainly did not believe that one’s religious biases should be kept out of public life.   Freemasonry is not a religion but its insignia, rituals, and symbols stand for a belief system and Washington himself displayed those symbols of the Masonic belief system at one of the most important events in the history of the Republic. 
     Now, on for another remark about Washington though having nothing apropos of the religious debate.  We all have in our mind the image of Washington crossing the Delaware, standing in the prow of a boat and looking noble.  According to one of his chief officers, General Henry Knox—who weighted over 300 lbs—Washington was seated in the boat and wanted to make sure that Knox was seated too, declaring:  "Shift your fat ass, Henry, but slowly, or you'll swamp the damn boat!"  Sort of makes us shift our image of ol'George, doesn't it?

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