George Washington Almost A Saint
Chapter Two
Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four


One of the first problems to be solved was the status and title of this new political role. Line items like how the president should be addressed and how he was expected to act and appear in public were very important to the general population of former monarchial subjects. It was Washington himself who declared that he should be referred to simply as “Mr. President”, instead of “Your Highness” or “Your Majesty” or some other royal respect. That formal and informal title of “Mr. President” has remained to this day with the Presidency.

Washington almost avoided his responsibilities of the formation of the Presidential job description just a couple of weeks after his inauguration when he became deathly ill with what most of his contemporaries thought was anthrax. If he would have died it would have probably been a near fatal blow to the United States government, then in its infancy.

For years after his presidency many politicians and historians basically described Washington as a tall non-intellectual figure head who served in a somewhat sterile projection of authority during the first formative years of our Nation’s government. In reality, both Washington and history proved Presidency to be much more than anyone could have expected. He actually left a legacy of honesty, integrity and dignity. And in that, Washington set a Presidential standard that his succeeding office holders have struggled to both obtain and maintain.

Yet by the standards of the North American culture today he would probably have been observed as somewhat odd in certain of his personal mannerisms. He never shook hands with anyone after he was elected to the highest office of our government. He wrote that such a gesture was not becoming to one holding his office. His peers never criticized him or “forced his hand” for this practice. However, this presidential tradition he attempted to establish never remained in the office.

Washington also established the role model of presidential travel. He did this by making sure he visited each State regularly during both terms of his presidency. On his many presidential journeys Washington would often ride in a carriage. Just as he was approaching a city or town that he wanted to make a lasting impression on he would mount his favorite white horse named “Nelson” and ride into town in grand style.

While on his journeys he also became a patron of the arts, stopping along the way to buy several original oil paintings throughout the young Nation. Some of those paintings are still on display at his estate home in Mount Vernon, Virginia, located just a few miles from the Nation’s capital.

Washington was always very interested in developing and in decorating his estate at Mount Vernon. From the color of the walls to the style and finish of the furniture, he always was planning and testing new ideas that would set Mount Vernon apart from the other plantations and farms of Virginia. He also enjoyed dressing the role of a military general and an executive leader of his people.

1n 1798 George Washington produced 11,000 gallons of whiskey at Mount Vernon making him the single largest distiller of alcohol in America[1]. Whiskey was a very common drink in the colonies and was consumed regularly as a table beverage and for medicinal purposes alike.   

Another talent that George Washington had, made him out to be quite the dancer at the Presidential receptions, balls and dinners he was invited to during the post-revolutionary war days. These events were known to have a long line of ladies waiting to have a chance to dance with the notorious leader of the new Nation. He specialized in dancing the minuet, which he had studied and practiced since the days of his youth.

While George Washington was president his spirituality was somewhat of a mystery to his religious contemporaries. While many Christian patriots to this day would qualify him as a practicing protestant Christian, other certifiable documentation of his era would appear to indicate otherwise. While we have nationally recognized paintings of him kneeling to pray during the Revolutionary War, we must note that these paintings were rendered years after Washington’s death and were created to relay a biased ideal of him – be that right or wrong.

In the same tradition, the stories about the young George Washington cutting down the cherry tree and throwing a silver dollar across the Potomac River are now acknowledged as fables written years after Washington died to promote him as a very moral founding father of our nation.    

During his Presidency, when congress was in session, George Washington was known to regularly attend the Episcopal Church in Philadelphia with Martha and her daughter. However, on the Sacramental Sundays when Holy Communion was administered to the congregation, Mr. Washington would leave the sanctuary and return to his residence prior to the actual administration of the sacrament. After he arrived home he would send the carriage back for his wife. This practice was affirmed in the personal writings of Nelly Custis, George Washington’s step-granddaughter and in the correspondence of the Rev. James Abercrombie, the rector (pastor) of the Episcopal Church in Philadelphia at that time.

This practice of Washington’s leaving the Church before Holy Communion was served became an obvious problem amongst those who attended the Church regularly and observed it. Almost all Christian denominations, both Protestant and Roman Catholic consider the receiving of Holy Communion, (The Eucharist; The Lord’s Supper; the Holy Sacrament) to be a sacred responsibility which all practicing and confirmed Christians should participate in as an identification of their personal faith in Jesus Christ.

Eventually Rev. Abercrombie addressed the issue directly in a sermon referencing “those in elevated stations who uniformly turned their backs upon the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.[2] Rev. Abercrombie further stated in that same sermon; “the remark was intended for the President.[3] . Washington was in attendance for this sermon and appeared to receive the rebuke without any anger or dissent. Washington’s solution to the apparent offense was found later in Rev. Abercrombie’s remarks; “Accordingly, he (George Washington) never afterwards came on the morning of Sacramental Sunday, though at other times he was a constant attendant.[4]

In Washington’s day Bishop William White was considered to be the Father of the Episcopal Church in the colonies. He was located in Philadelphia and worked closely over and with the earlier mentioned Rev. James Abercrombie. Bishop White wrote a poignant letter to one Rev. Parker in Massachusetts stating these words; “I do not believe that any degree of recollection will bring to my mind any fact which would prove George Washington to have been a believer in the Christian revelation further than as may be hoped from his constant attendance upon Christian worship, in connection with the general reserve of his character[5].”    

Part of Washington’s spirituality was also mysteriously shrouded in his relationship with the Masonic Lodges in colonial America. By the time Washington was active in the British militia during the French and Indian War the culture of Masonic Lodges had spread through the colonies. Virginia was no exception. For Washington, joining the Masons was a rite of passage, a formal entry into respectable and genteel if not elite society.[6]

Washington was initiated into the Fredericksburg Lodge No. 4 on Saturday, November 4, 1752. On Saturday August 4,1753 he was made a Master Mason by the Fredericksburg Lodge.[7]   

As the young Washington became an adult and framed his relationships, the Masonic Orders would turn out to be a dynamic influence in his life both philosophically and spiritually. The spirituality of the Masonic order which promoted a rite to worship any supreme being in one’s own preference and manner was often perceived as a strong influence on the constitutional aspects we know today as religious freedom.

When reading Washington’s personal correspondences, there is very little doubt that he was in tune with the enlightenment thinkers of his day such as Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine, all of whom were his personal friends and members of the Masonic Lodge. French Military officer Lafayette was also a close friend of Washington’s and encouraged each other in the observance and personal practice of Masonic and French enlightenment philosophies.  

[1] Haffner, Craig The Presidents Volume 1 (History, 2005) DVD

[2] Remsburg John E.  Six Historic Americans (New York, Truth seeker Company,  1906)  p.105 

[3] Remsburg,John E.  Six Historic Americans (New York, Truth seeker Company,  1906)  p.105

[4] Remsburg John E.  Six Historic Americans (New York, Truth Seeker Company, 1906)  p.106 

[5] White, William The Literary Digest Vol..XXIV No. 22 (New York, 1902) p. 746

[6] Grizzard, Frank E. George Washington a Biographical Companion (Santa Barbara, California, ABCCLIO, 2002 ) p.123

[7] Lomas, Roberts The Secret Power of Masonic Symbols (New York, Fairwinds Press, 2011)     P.98

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