“Washington’s own religious pronouncements as president were basically unitarian with deistic overtones and in keeping with civil religion beliefs. The Rev. Dr. James Abercrombie, rector of St. Peter’s Church in Philadelphia where Washington often worshipped when the seat of government was located there, went so far as to affirm that the chief executive was a deist and lax in his attention to the Eucharist. To be sure, Washington was not disrespectful toward the church, but according to testimony from both Abercrombie and Rev. William White, the first Episcopal bishop of Pennsylvania, Washington was not a zealous churchgoer nor was he in the habit of partaking of the sacrament. Moreover, he was notorious for not kneeling to pray in public worship. At the church in Philadelphia, he often attended the pulpit service but left before the observance of the Eucharist, usually leaving the more devout Mrs. Washington behind with the other communicants. When Dr. Abercrombie in a sermon scolded those in places of public trust who set bad examples by turning their backs on the sacrament, Washington was so irked that he never appeared at St. Peter’s on Communion Sunday again. This ambivalence towards orthodoxy characterized Washington’s church-going habits and this attitude toward organized religion in general during his years as president. He attended sporadically, listened courteously, but participated little in the life of the local church. He never spoke of any personal belief in Christ but rather reserved his affirmations of faith in the Supreme Ruler of the Nations for his personal letters or civil religion occasions of the government such as the presidential inaugural.”
Pierard & Linder
“Civil Religion & the Presidency”
Letter from R. J. Rushdoony to Cornelius Van Til,
Dear Dr. Van Til,
This is a hasty note in respect to George Washington. What the history books have to say about him and his biographers is no more trusted than what James Daane has to say about you.
George Washington grew up into the 18th century Rationalism. A basically conservative, land loving man, a part of his conservatism was to accept, without great question, the rationalism of his day. However, the events of the war, led to a somewhat altered perspective, and then the French Revolution, during his presidency, altered his outlook markedly. He strongly opposed the French Revolution. He emphatically affirmed infallibility as the bedrock of the Christian faith as against rationalism. Previously a Mason, he supported Rev. Jeddidiah Morse, leading orthodox Calvinist of the day, in his attack on free-masonry and wrote at least two letters to Morse to underscore with his own testimony the validity of Morse’ attack. It is in terms of this that his 1796 quote is to be understood.
I shared the lecture platform, in Houston Texas recently, with Gregg Singer, who rightfully called attention to the strongly Christian thought in the Constitutional convention by men such as Rutledge, Dickinson, John Jay and others. Certainly, Patrick Henry, nominally, like Washington a Anglican represented, as Singer stated the Reformed faith with intensity. Henry was in his day a “Traveling Monk” in the eyes of some, because of his habit of carrying Reformed literature in his saddle bags to distribute to other lawyers. Even on his death bed, Henry witnessed to the faith to his agnostic Doctor.
Such aspects of American history are anathema to our historians, who, from the early 1800’s, when the Unitarians began to write our history, to the present when relativists have taken over, have worked more systematically to re-make the history and the founding fathers after their own image. In those days, it was necessary to affirm infallibility and the trinity to vote, and what many people forget is that the deistic writings of Franklin and Jefferson were not published in their day but privately written. Jefferson’s unbelief was widely suspected, but he avoided public profession of it.
We are too little aware of how Christian the laws were in all the states. As late as 1912, on state constitution still required that one be a Christian to hold citizenship and vote. Only last Summer did the New Jersey Supreme court strike down an old statute, once universal in all the states, denying the right of atheists to be witnesses in a court of law because of their inability to take the oath honestly and because they lacked citizenship.
R. J. Rushdoony
Hat Tip — Mickey Bolwerk