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Saturday, September 5, 2009

Another Calvinist Founding Father: George Washington

Along with James Madison, another Virginian who was fairly silent on his religious beliefs was General George Washington. No doubt Christianity, and John Calvin's Exposition of it, was the greatest influence on the American Experiment. Calvin's theory of "Solidarity" is the basis and foundation of Republican Representative Government. Solidarity refers to how an individual refers to a group, nation, or mankind, etc. The group is then viewed and treated in relation to its head or King. Solidarity is the basis of the human race having worth and dignity, as man is made in the image of God, His image imputed by Adam to us (Gen. 1:26-27; James 3:9). Solidarity is the basis for: election, the Levitical Priesthood, Corporate Guilt and Punishment, and Even For the Righteous. Egypt's punishment based on the sins of a few is a classic example.

The Bible teaches the acts and decisions of one's representative are viewed and treated as being one's own acts and decisions. If our representatives declare war, you and I have declared war. Representatives for the mass of people was started by God as far back as Exodus 18. Because man is depraved (Calvin's first point in his five points of Calvinism), checks had to be established to limit his power. The Separation of Powers Doctrine, etc. was derived from the work of John Calvin.

George Washington and the Founding Fathers in general, believed in Calvin's Human Depravity, and they designed our government to reflect that depravity. Far from making a distinct declaration of Washington's faith, below is strong evidence of Orthodoxy, as these notes are in his own handwriting, and apparently has his signature. Since Washington approved these words by his signature, he may have added these words himself. Washington's notes for his Inaugural Address show Calvin's influence:

"The blessed Religion revealed in the word of God will remain an eternal and awful monument to prove that the best Institutions may be abused by human depravity; and that they may even, in some instances be made subservient to the vilest of purposes. Should, hereafter, those who are intrusted with the management of this government, incited by the lust of power & prompted by the supineness or venality of their Constituents, overleap the known barriers of this Constitution and violate the unalienable rights of humanity: it will only serve to shew, that no compact among men (however provident in its construction & sacred in its ratification) can be pronounced everlasting and inviolable--and if I may so express myself, that no wall of words--that no mound of parchmt can be so formed as to stand against the sweeping torrent of boundless ambition on the one side, aided by the sapping current of corrupted morals on the other." [bold face mine]
-George Washington, First Inaugural Address Fragments 1789. The Papers of George Washington Documents.

Washington made other comments about his faith that can be construed, however, below, is most likely a spurious letter; most of Washington's fake letters have no date:

"We have abundant reason to rejoice that in this land the light of truth and reason has triumphed over the power of bigotry and superstition and that every person may here worship God according to the dictates of his own heart."
-George Washington, To the members of the New Church at Baltimore.

So why do secularists claim Washington was Arian? Isn't that appellation a superstition? They make that claim because GW claimed in The 1783 Circular to the States refers to Jesus as "the Divine Author of our blessed Religion." GW's use of "superstition" then, must refer to something other that Scripture, most likely added revelation, and heresy.

If Washington claimed Jesus was Divine, who can claim he denied the Trinity, as well as his understanding man was depraved and need of redemption, which man could not provide, thereby man needing a Divine Redeemer?

As to GW's faith, there is evidence on both sides, however Calvin's Human Depravity need not be disputed.


J said...

Washington may have attended church on occasion, but also voiced Deist ideas at times. OK, let's agree he was christian ( Episcopalian, I believe). Washington's biography does not leave one with the impression that he was especially orthodox or pious.

Speaking of unorthodox, I now believe your pals (or ex pals) at 'Merican creation are Randian/objectivist sorts, with a few mormons, perhaps: quacks, if not deviants, even if at times they affirm the Constitution, put on the patriot act, etc.

Our Founding Truth said...

At this point in time, I cannot make a declaration on Washington. I'm still forming an opinion.

I believe in being objective, open to all views pertaining to the founding.

Tom Van Dyke said...

James, I did some work on the draft of Washington's inaugural, but concluded it was a dead end:

A biographer named David Humphries was living at Mount Vernon for awhile, and it was he who composed the draft.

Washington discarded it, and James Madison composed the draft of what Washington actually used at the inaugural.

It's impossible to tell what in the first draft is Washington and what is Humphries.

Best regards,---TVD

Our Founding Truth said...

Unless I am reading the note fragments incorrectly, which I could be, the author says Washington copied Humphries' version, and signed it, without crossing out the questioned portion.

If Washington did not add those words, which he could have, he still copied it and signed it, embracing the words.

Our Founding Truth said...

Here is the text.

"or the version in GW's writing, which exists only in fragmentary form."
-Draft Fragments in GW's handwriting.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Yes, Washington copied it over in his own hand, but he also later rejected it.

I just think the document is unsatisfactory as evidence for the reasons given re Humphries, and further, because its overt religiosity is missing from all his other writings.

Hey, I thought it looked promising at first.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Plus remember Jared Sparks thought it unimportant enough that he ripped it up and gave fragments to his buddies.

Our Founding Truth said...

Yes, on the surface, the questioned paragraph appears unsatisfactory, and Washington discarded it, however, it's possible the fragment isn't unlike his other writings.

Although making a clear declaration on his faith could be impossible, he called himself a Christian:

"Person, in the world, I might add, for 400 with as much ease and propriety as you seem to require it, or even for twice that Sum if it woud make you easy; but alas l to shew my inability in this respect, I inclose you a copy of Mr. Cary's last Acct. currt. against me, which upon my honr and the faith of a Christian is a true one, and transmitted to me with the additional aggravation of a hint at the largeness of it. Messrs."[bold face mine]
-To ROBERT STEWART April 27, 1763.

This statement is interesting as he mentions "faith" which could or could not mean orthodox faith, not the faith of the heterodox elites. Furthermore, Washington believed in the first point of Calvinism:

"A just estimate of that love of power and proneness to abuse it which predominates in the human heart..."
-Address of George Washington, President of the United States, Late Commander in Chief of the American Army, to the People of the United States, Preparatory to his Declination (Baltimore: George & Henry S. Keatinge, 1796), pp. 22-23.

Maybe the Circular to the States isn't so unlike the wording in the fragments:

I now make it my earnest prayer, that God would have you, and the State over which you preside, in his holy protection...which were the Characteristicks of the Divine Author of our blessed Religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy Nation.[bold face mine]

Are they so similar that he could have written both?

I doubt Sparks enjoyed the wording of the fragments.

Our Founding Truth said...

That is a few of the heterodox elites.

Jonathan Rowe said...

No so Jim. The "heterodox elites" like Jefferson and J. Adams (and I'd argue Franklin as well, but fewer smoking gun quotes could be found from him in this regard) considered themselves "faithful Christians."

To them "rational Christian" was unitarian and denied original sin, Trinity, Incarnation, Atonement, eternal damnation, infallibility of the Bible, etc.

That 1763 letter btw, is the only one I've seen where GW even explicitly considers himself a "Christian" at all. There are many more where he seems to talk about the "Christians" a 3rd person sense.

Our Founding Truth said...

I understand the heterodox considered themselves Christians, however, I mentioned heterodox to contradistinguish that of Church Orthodoxy.

Remember, some of the Orthodox (Jay, S. Adams, et al.) considered themselves "rational" Christians.

J said...

Washington was a practicing Mason, and knew the secret handshake. There are pictures with him in his masonic girdle, saying the oaths.

The American Creation shriners should find that inspiring.

Our Founding Truth said...

If there was a legitimate quote by Washington affirming masonry that has a date, I'm all ears. The ones that don't have a date are spurious.

J said...

Google around. Washington even took the oath of office on a masonic bible--as did George Bush I. Lodgemen were involved in the founding of 'Merica from the start---John Quincy Adams (unlike his toryish daddy) fought the masons tooth and nail for years, whether they were the southern sorts (like that POS Andy Jackson), or the northern sneaky sort.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Plus remember Jared Sparks thought it unimportant enough that he ripped it up and gave fragments to his buddies.

Actually, Jon, I would see the Jared Sparks "ripping it up," destroying a Washington document, not as seeing it as "unimportant," but as a threat to Sparks' own unitarian theology.

Dishonest. One does not "tear up" an historical document from the Father of his Country.

As to the value of the document itself, my previous remarks stand about Washington's house guest Mr. Humphries having authored it.

Jonathan Rowe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jonathan Rowe said...

In the following sources we see GW endorse Freemasonry (of which GW was a Master Mason). GW also was present at the Masonic cornerstone laying at the US Capitol.

The following is a good site.

Our Founding Truth said...

If Washington was a mason, we can throw out "Christian" once and for all. I will definitely look at that.

Our Founding Truth said...

Jon, I believe both of those sites you posted are suspect to say the least. The first one posts the spurious words of Washington by masons without dates, mixed in with authentic ones. The other is a masonic site.

The fact is he didn't practice masonry since 1753, and he was too low of a degree to know any of the occultic procedings that went on. But he wasn't ignorant of it:

"It was not my intention to doubt that, the Doctrines of the Illuminati, and principles of Jacobinism had not spread in the United States. On the contrary, no one is more truly satisfied of this fact than I am.
The idea that I meant to convey, was, that I did not believe that the Lodges of Free Masons in this Country had, as Societies, endeavoured to propagate the diabolical tenets of the first, or pernicious principles of the latter (if they are susceptible of seperation). That Individuals of them may have done it, or that the founder, or instrument employed to found, the Democratic Societies in the United States, may have had these objects; and actually had a seperation of the People from their Government in view, is too evident to be questioned."
-to George Washington Snyder, October 24, 1798.

"And which allows me to add little more now, than thanks for your kind wishes and favourable sentiments, except to correct an error you have run into, of my Presiding over the English lodges in this Country. The fact is, I preside over none, nor have I been in one more than once or twice, within the last thirty years. I believe notwithstanding, that none of the Lodges in this Country are contaminated with the principles ascribed to the Society of the Illuminati. With respect I am &c."
-to George Washington Snyder, September 25, 1798

It appears to me, Washington wasn't a high enough degree to know the intricacies of masonry. When he called masons his brother in 1798, it was on a "good ole boy" level only. What do you think?

Our Founding Truth said...

Hey Tom,

I read some interesting comments on Humphries. Apparently, he wasn't just Washington's friend; he was his best friend, who everyone knew Washington referred to as "my beloved Humphries."

Humphries was a great writer, and supposedly wrote the letter to the swedenborgians. So he obviously felt secure in whatever Humphries wrote.

To the contrary, Washington's other writings do appear similar. He, like the other framers, believed in Calvin's Human Depravity, with many examples of it in his writings:

"Good God! who besides a tory could have foreseen, or a Briton predicted them! were these people wiser than others, or did they judge of us from the corruption, and depravity of their own hearts? The latter I am persuaded was the case, and that notwithstanding the boasted virtue of America, we are far gone in every thing ignoble and bad."
-To HENRY KNOX, December 26, 1786.

"Few men are capable of making a continual sacrifice of all views of private interest, or advantage, to the common good. It is vain to exclaim against the depravity of human nature on this account; the fact is so, the experience of every age and nation has proved it and we must in a great measure, change the constitution of man, before we can make it otherwise. No institution, not built on the presumptive truth of these maxims can succeed."
WITH THE ARMY27 [Head Quarters, January 29, 1778.]

"At the same time that I acknowledge that, Mr. Ballendine has a natural genius to thing's of this sort, which if properly encouraged may lend much to publick utility, I cannot help adding, that, his Principles have been loose; whether from a natural depravity, or distress'd circumstances, I shall not undertake to determine; how far therefore a Man of this cast is entitled to encouragement every one must judge for themselves..."
Mount Vernon, May 5, 1772.

Depravity is one thing, however, unless I am persuaded to the contrary, I am most likely in your train pertaining to his Biblical faith.

Our Founding Truth said...

This is a quote from that masonic site:

September 18
Acting Grand Master - Laid the cornerstone for the United States Capitol, Washington, D.C.

I take back what I said on the other site, it appears legit. I was thinking of a another site.

I don't know what to think, he appears to be a mason:

"So far as I am acquainted with the principles and doctrines of Free Masonry, I conceive it to be founded in benevolence, and to be exercised only for the good of Mankind; I cannot, therefore, upon this ground, withhold my approbation of it."
OF FREE MASONS, November 8, 1798.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Sorry, OFT---even if he shared a general view of man's depravity [as Madison did], it's not an endorsement of Calvinism.

"The Fall" is part of Christianity, from well before Calvin or the Reformation [read "Roman Catholic"].

Washington also seems to leave room for exceptions to a universal depravity, not only in your text

"whether from a natural depravity, or distress'd circumstances, I shall not undertake to determine"

but also in his oft-quoted Farewell Address:

"Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle."

Italics mine.

Tom Van Dyke said...

"So far as I am acquainted with the principles and doctrines of Free Masonry..."

...does indicate a relationship, but not a deep one. He was a Mason. It wasn't that big a deal.

[The Illluminati movement was in Europe, and was very radical, if not anti-theistic. Washington was clearly against it, and obviously didn't hold it as "true" Masonry.]

Our Founding Truth said...

I used that quote to support the general theory of depravity with the others: "the depravity of human nature" and "depravity of their own hearts?" It appears Washington could not determine from where that man's errors arose, not a critique of depravity in general.

Calvin is the only reformer who clarified an authentic Christian theology during the Reformation based on the text. I don't know where else the framers got depravity from. Check my earlier response on the previous post about Madison.

Our Founding Truth said...

Washington says the Illuminati was here!

J said...

"It was not my intention to doubt that, the Doctrines of the Illuminati, and principles of Jacobinism had not spread in the United States. On the contrary, no one is more truly satisfied of this fact than I am.
The idea that I meant to convey, was, that I did not believe that the Lodges of Free Masons in this Country had, as Societies, endeavoured to propagate the diabolical tenets of the first, or pernicious principles of the latter (if they are susceptible of separation).

Interesting. I would agree, however, that Washington does not give the impression of having a very profound or intellectual mind. As far as masonry goes, the Bavarian Illuminati held rather obscure, perhaps occultic beliefs; some writers suggest that even the standard rites--York, Scottish, even shriners (--you go American Creation!)--grow more occultic as the master Mason-man progresses towards Gott.

Certainly masonry has often been associated with the occult--read a bit about Albert Pike, confederate general, and mason who often invoked Lucifer and all manner of spooky BS (a large statue of Pike sits in Washington). The good ol' boy masons themselves engage in some weird phunn (perhaps sexual or violent as well). Andy Jackson was also a confederate mason; and the KKK spun off from masonic groups.

AS a whole it has been WASP (though northern chapters have allowed blacks, and jews)--one of their stated goals has been to end the Church of Rome, however (some are more anti-semitic). Joseph Smith supposed mormon prophet was an ex-mason as well.

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