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


George Washington is the only president that never lived in the “Presidential Mansion” that we now know as the “White House” in Washington DC - which was originally named “The Federal City”. The White House was completed enough for a residency in November of 1800, a year after our first President died. Washington did however, often discuss the plans for “Federal City” and the “Presidential Mansion” as their construction processes were being considered and initiated prior to his death.

Two days before Washington expired he spent about five hours riding horseback through the cold December air of his Mount Vernon estate. Apparently a virulent bacterial infection concentrated in his respiratory system would bring his death two days later on December 14, 1899. His last day on earth was excruciatingly painful[1].

One of the little known facts about Mr. Washington’s death occurred on the last day of his life. As incredible as it seems, it has been well documented that George Washington was baptized into the Roman Catholic faith just a few hours prior to his death by a Jesuit priest named Father Leonard Neale[2]. This account is confirmed in many of Washington’s slaves memoirs and by several official documents of the colonial Roman Catholic Church in America. The historical account has been issued many times in the last two centuries by public newspapers and also in both national and international Roman Catholic publications.

On December 18, 1799 Washington’s funeral was held completely at his Mount Vernon estate. Four members of the clergy, his immediate family, his closest friends and neighbors and many of the Freemasons from his local lodge joined the brief procession to the appointed grave site. A clergyman gave a short speech, and the Freemasons performed their rites. The infantry then fired three volleys of musketry – eleven artillery pieces discharged, and Washington, commander-in-chief of the United States Army was laid to rest.[3] 

Eight days later on December 26, 1799 the United States would host a public memorial service in its then capitol – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Some ten thousand people lined the streets along the procession route to watch the various governmental dignitaries, including Alexander Hamilton as they led an empty flag draped coffin to the German Lutheran Church which was chosen because it had the largest seating capacity of any church in the city. 

The Episcopalian Bishop in Philadelphia presided over the service. However, the only memorable quote that was uttered came from the 25 minute eulogy rendered by Virginian congressman Henry Lee. Lee declared that George Washington had been “first in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his country.”[4]       

George and Martha are entombed side by side in an open faced gated mausoleum on the Mount Vernon Estate. At one point years after his death when the Nation’s Capitol building was being built, it was suggested that Washington should be buried beneath the floor of the great rotunda in that structure. This proposal was promptly rejected by Washington’s heirs who continued to live at the Mount Vernon estate at that time.

After his death, congress adopted a resolution. It said Washington was a citizen first in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen[5]. Mr. Washington had lived a life that was appreciated by his family, his friends, his Nation and all of us who look back in history and realize the values that he put in place. 

In the rotunda of the Capitol Building in Washington DC is a large panoramic fresco painted by an Italian artist named Constantino Brumidi. The Apotheosis of Washington is Brumidi’s best-known work and was completed in 1865. It depicts George Washington rising to heaven flanked by the goddess Liberty to his right, and the goddess Victory to his left[6].

The painting, like Washington’s own spiritual projections, makes him out to be almost a saint. While many secular historians have referred to him as a type of a patron saint of all American patriots, it must be noted that this reference to sainthood has nothing to do with the culture of Biblical and Christian leaders often canonized in various branches and denominations of Christianity as saints. In fact the more conservative side of Christianity quietly categorizes paintings like Brumidi’s as somewhat blasphemous to the Christian community of saints.

It is in these serious facts and opinions that have previously been presented, that we must note that George Washington must be evaluated as a historical figure that played very strongly into the formation of our Nation and the establishment of the office of the President. To historians he is a generally considered to be a man of integrity, character and exemplary moral fiber. To various and many religious sects and their leaders Washington may obviously be somewhat of a chameleonic mystery. His spiritual beliefs were well disguised in his personal practices, his correspondences and other communications, and even eventually as he postured himself for mortal death. George Washington was a very unique leader who often withdrew emotionally and spiritually into a world we have no record of. Those who interacted with him had obvious opinions as to who he actually was, both spiritually and psychologically.  

Many questions about George Washington are still rendered by those who examine his life closely. Did he accomplish as much as those who have come to know him throughout the course of American history think he did? Was he the genuine leader that he portrayed in his military decisions and his personal lifestyle? What were the genuine spiritual and religious values that motivated him throughout his life? Was he almost a saint of the Revolutionary War or have we just chose to make him out to be that?

Whatever conclusions one may come to about Mr. Washington, we all can be thankful that he was a part of the founding fathers of this great land we live in. Though we may never know all of the quiet nuances of his life we can always remember the contributions he yielded to the formation of that new republic we now know as the United States of America. 

[1] Henriques, Peter R. Realistic Visionary: A Portrait of George Washington (University of Virginia Press, 2006 ) p.192

[2] Pinto, Christian J. The Hidden Faith of the Founding Fathers (Adullam Films, 2010) DVD 

[3] Lengel, Edward G. General George Washington : A Military Life (New York, Random House Inc., 2005) prologue

[4] Ferling, John The Ascent of George Washington (New York, Bloomsbury Press, 2009) p.4

[5] Bianco, John The Story of America (Chicago, Illinois, Questar Inc. 2013) DVD  

[6] Collins, Tim  Behind the Lost Symbol (New York, Berkley Books,2009) p. 14

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