Monday, February 20, 2017

President's Day - A Reflection on George Washington and Abraham Lincoln

George Washington – Facts

George Washington was born on February 22, 1732 at his father’s Pope Creek Estate in Westmoreland, Virginia. George’s father died when he was only 11 years old. His mother was known for being a very demanding and controlling woman. George respected and looked up to his older half-brother Lawrence. George had no formal education. However, he read as many books as he could devour and worked to educate himself as much as possible throughout his life.  One of the skills he taught himself was surveying.  Shortly after the death of his beloved brother, Lawrence, George Washington was appointed to the rank of major in the Virginia militia. During the French and Indian War, Washington built Fort Necessity along the Ohio River. It would be the only time in his military career that George Washington would surrender. After the French and Indian War, George married Martha Dandridge Custis. Martha brought not only land and money to the marriage but also two children from her former marriage and George adored John and Martha. Sadly, little Martha died before the American Revolution and John died during the American Revolution where George was serving as the General of the Continental Army. After both the French and Indian War and The American Revolution, George Washington would return to his home at Mount Vernon and work his land as a planter. In 1787, George Washington would once again leave Mount Vernon to serve his beloved United States of America. This time, he would serve as the first President of America. George Washington was the only president to ever be unanimously elected to office by every elector of the Electoral College. Washington was disheartened by partisanship that accompanied the formation of political parties. He felt politics should be about the issues and not personality. Knowing he was aging, George refused to serve a third term as President and returned home to Mount Vernon. George Washington served as President of the United States of America from 1789 to 1797. George Washington died at Mount Vernon, Virginia on December 14, 1799 after too much blood letting due to fever (Matthew March - Cumberland County Historical Society). My son and I had the pleasure of touring Washington's beloved Mount Vernon a few years ago with my brother and sister-in-law,  both of whom are history teachers, and their children. My son was in awe at walking on the same land where George Washington trod.

Mount Vernon

George Washington’s Faith: “George Washington was a member of the Anglican church. He made frequent references to God and the Bible in his public statements and private letters. Personal friends and family members gave accounts of his regular Bible reading, church attendance and moral lifestyle. He personally promoted a project to evangelize Indians that was organized by Selina, Countess of Huntingdon. Washington even had a portrait of the Countess hanging in his house. The Countess was one of the leading evangelical ministers of the day. Washington was a ‘Low Church’ Anglican, the branch of the Anglican church that took the Bible literally and would be considered "true" to the Bible by believing Christians today.” (Revolutionary War and Beyond)

More Information on George Washington can be found at: Biography, White House, History, Revolutionary War and Beyond,  and Mount Vernon.

Abraham Lincoln – Facts

Abraham (Abe) Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809 in a log cabin in Hardin County, Kentucky. In 1817, Abraham’s family moved to Perry County Indiana where they were squatters on government land. A year later in 1818 when Abe was only nine years old, his mother Nancy died. A little over a year later, Abe’s father, Thomas, married Sally Johnston. Both his mother and step-mother were influential in Abe’s life. Not only did he share strong bonds with both women but they also taught him to believe in God and hold firmly to that faith. Abraham Lincoln only received 18 months of formal education. The rest of his education was self-taught. Abe would walk miles to neighbors’ homes to borrow books for reading. At 22 years of age, Abe headed out on his own and made a living by splitting firewood and rail fencing. Abraham Lincoln finally settled down in Salem, Illinois where he held several jobs including shopkeeper, postmaster, and general store owner. In 1834, Abraham Lincoln began his political career by becoming a Illinois State Legislator. During this time, Abe became romantically involved with Anne Rutledge who sadly died of Typhoid before the couple could get married. Abraham Lincoln married Mary Todd, who was his exact opposite: from a well-respected family, highly-educated, and exuberant, in 1842. They had four children together. In 1844, Abraham Lincoln became a partner in law with William Herndon. Abe would serve a two year term in the United States House of Representatives from 1847 to 1849. In 1860, Abraham Lincoln would be elected the 16th President of the United States of America with only 40 percent of the popular vote and 180 of the 303 Electoral College votes. Approximately one month after his inauguration, Abraham Lincoln would face one of the greatest challenges any president would ever face: The American Civil War. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation which freed all slaves. On April 9, 1865 General Robert E. Lee, Commander of the Army of Virginia or the Army of the Confederate States, surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant, the Commander of the Union Army, at Appomattox, Virginia effectively bringing the Civil War to an end. Several days later, on April 14, 1865 Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by actor John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theater in Washington, DC. Lincoln would remain in a coma until his death the following day on April 15, 1865. His body would be carried via a train processional from Washington, DC to Springfield, IL where he would be buried. People came to pay their respects as the train made its way west. My son and I have had the honor of riding along the same train rails that carried Lincoln’s processional train through Hanover Junction here in Pennsylvania.

Lincoln's Home

Abraham Lincoln’s Faith: Abraham Lincoln’s faith has been an issue of great debate over the years. While Abe never joined any specific church, he did attend church services on a regular basis both as a child and while serving as President. It appears that Lincoln didn’t agree with the legalism of many churches. His faith was simply stated: "When any church will inscribe over its altar, as its sole qualification for membership, the Savior's condensed statement of the substance of both law and Gospel, 'Thou shalt love the lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul and thy neighbor as thyself' that church will I join with all my heart and all my soul." (Great American History) His faith is exhibited furthermore in a proclamation for prayer and fasting on March 30, 1863 when Lincoln stated; “It is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, and to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon, and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in Holy Scripture, and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.” (Great American History) Even more remarkable to note is a President on his knees in prayer for our nation: “I went to my room one day and locked the door and got down on my knees before Almighty God and prayed to Him mightily for victory at Gettysburg. I told Him that this war was His war, and our cause His cause ... And after that, I don't know how it was, and I cannot explain it, but soon a sweet comfort crept into my soul.” (Great American History)

More information on Abraham Lincoln can be found at: History, Biography, Great American History, and Constitution Daily.

Post a Comment