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urged his request till they were appointed. In the general orders he reproved and forbade the vicious habits and profane swearing of the soldiers. The following is an extract from these orders.
“ Colonel Washington has observed, that the men of his regiment are very profane and reprobate. He takes this opportunity to inform them of his great displeasure at such practices, and assures them, that, if they do not leave them off, they shall be severely punished. The officers are desired, if they hear any man swear, or make use of an oath or execration, to order the offender twenty-five lashes immediately, without a court-martial. For the second offence, he shall be more severely punished.” Similar orders were repeated, when the occasion required; and they afford a convincing proof of the high religious motives by which he was actuated in his command.
After the French war, while in retirement at Mount Vernon, he took a lively interest in church affairs, regularly attending public worship, and being at different times a vestryman in two parishes.* The House of Burgesses, of which he was a member, passed an order (May 24th, 1774,) in reference to the act of Parliament for shutting up the port of Boston, that “the 1st day of June should be set apart as a day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer, devoutly to implore the divine interposition for averting the heavy calamity, which threatened destruction to their civil rights, and the evils of civil war.” On the day appointed, he writes in his diary; “ Went to church, and fasted all day," thus conforming not only to the spirit, but to the strict letter of the
* The following list of votes for vestrymen in Fairfax Parish, and Truro Parish, is copied from a paper in Washington's handwriting, and shows that he was chosen a vestryman in each of those parishes. How long he continued in that station, I have no means of determining. The place of worship in Fairfax Parish was at Alexandria; in Truro Parish, at Pohick; the former ten, the latter seven miles from Mount Vernon. « Vestry chosen for Fairfar Parish, Vestry chosen for Truro Parish, 28th March, 1705 ;
220 July, 1765 ; With the number of votes for cach. With the number of votes for each. John West . . .
George Mason . Charles Alexander . 309 Edward Payne . .
277 William Payne . . . 304 | George Washington . . 259 John Dalton . . 281) John Posey. . .
259 George Washington . . 274 Daniel McCarty . . . 246 Charles Broadwater . . 260 George William Fairfax . 235 George Johnston . . 254 Alexander Henderson . .
231 Townsend Dade 252 William Gardner .
218 Richard Sanford . 247 | Tomison Ellzey .
209 William Adams.
244 Thomas W. Coffer . . 189 John Posey . . . . 222 William Lynton . . . 173 Daniel French . . . . . 221 Thomas Ford . . .
order. This diary was kept for many years with much particularity. A Sabbath day rarely occurs, in which it is not recorded that he went to church. If there was an omission, it was caused by the weather, or badness of the roads; the nearest church, as stated above, being seven miles from his residence. While attending the first Congress, he adhered to the same practice.
During the revolution and afterwards, his habits, and the importance he attached to the principles and observances of religion, may be understood from the following extracts taken promiscuously from his Orderly Book, letters, and addresses.
“ The honorable Continental Congress having been pleased to allow a chaplain to each regiment, the colonels or commanding officers of each regiment are directed to procure chaplains accordingly, persons of good characters and exemplary lives, and to see that all inferior officers and soldiers pay them a suitable respect. The blessing and protection of Heaven are at all times necessary, but especially so in times of public distress and danger. The General hopes and trusts, that every officer and man will endeavour to live and act as becomes a Christian soldier, defending the dearest rights and liberties of his country.” — Orderly Book, July 9th, 1776.
“ That the troops may have an opportunity of attending public worship, as well as to take some rest after the great fatigue they have gone through, the General in future excuses them from fatigue duty on Sundays, except at the ship-yards, or on special occasions, until further orders. The General is sorry to be informed, that the foolish and wicked practice of profane cursing and swearing, a vice heretofore little known in an American army, is growing into fashion; he hopes the officers will, by example as well as influence, endeavour to check it, and that both they and the men will reflect, that we can have little hope of the blessing of Heaven on our arms, if we insult it by our impiety and folly; added to this, it is a vice so mean and low, without any temptation, that every man of sense and character detests and despises it.” – Orderly Book, August 3d, 1776.
“Let vice and immorality of every kind be discouraged as much as possible in your brigade; and, as a chaplain is allowed to each regiment, see that the men regularly attend divine worship. Gaming of every kind is expressly forbidden, as being the foundation of evil, and the cause of many a brave and gallant officer's ruin.” — Instructions to the Brigadier-Generals, May 26th, 1777. VOL. XII. 51
“ To-morrow being the day set apart by the honorable Congress for public thanksgiving and praise, and duty calling us all devoutly to express our grateful acknowledgments to God for the manifold blessings he has granted to us, the General directs, that the army remain in its present quarters, and that the chaplains perform divine service with their several regiments and brigades; and earnestly exhorts all officers and soldiers, whose absence is not indispensably necessary, to attend with reverence the solemnities of the day.” — Orderly Book, December 17th, 1777.
The day after the capitulation at Yorktown, the following order was issued. “Divine service is to be performed to-morrow in the several brigades and divisions. The Commander-in-chief earnestly recommends, that the troops not on duty should universally attend, with that seriousness of deportment and gratitude of heart, which the recognition of such reiterated and astonishing interpositions of Providence demand of us." — October 20th, 1781.
On proclaiming to the army the cessation of hostilities, at the end of the war, he said in the general orders ; “ The proclamation, which will be communicated herewith, will be read to-morrow evening at the head of every regiment and corps in the army; after which the chaplains with the several brigades will render thanks to Almighty God for all his mercies, particularly for his overruling the wrath of man to his own glory, and causing the rage of war to cease among the nations." — April 18th, 1783.
In speaking of the progress of the war, and the manner in which it had been sustained by the Americans against a powerful enemy, he said ; “ The hand of Providence has been so conspicuous in all this, that he must be worse than an infidel, that lacks faith, and more than wicked, that has not gratitude enough to acknowledge his obligations.” – Letter, August 20th, 1778. Indeed, this habit of ascribing every favorable event, and the success of his personal efforts, to the benign influence of an overruling Providence, was constant with him during the whole war, and it seemed to be his chief support and consolation in the severe reverses and trials, which he was often called to bear.
“Ours is a kind of struggle,” said he, “ designed by Providence, I dare say, to try the patience, fortitude, and virtue of men. None, therefore, who is engaged in it, will suffer himself, I trust, to sink under difficulties, or be discouraged by hardships."
“ Providence having so often taken us up, when bereft of every other hope, I trust we shall not fail even in this.”
“ To that good Providence, which has so remarkably aided us in all our difficulties, the rest is committed.”
“We have abundant reasons to thank Providence for its many favorable interpositions in our behalf. It has at times been my only dependence, for all other resources seemed to have failed us.”
“Our affairs are brought to a perilous crisis, that the hand of Providence, I trust, may be more conspicuous in our deliverance. The remarkable interpositions of the Divine government, in the hours of our deepest distress and darkness, have been too luminous to suffer me to doubt the happy issue of the present contest.”
The same sentiments were expressed on many occasions after the war. “I am sure,” said he, in a letter to General Armstrong, “there never was a people, who had more reason to acknowledge a divine interposition in their affairs, than those of the United States ; and I should be pained to believe, that they have forgotten that agency, which was so often manifested during our revolution, or that they failed to consider the omnipotence of that God, who is alone able to protect them.” — March 11th, 1792.
Examples of this kind might be multiplied indefinitely. In those parts of faith and practical piety, therefore, which consist in a conviction of the all-pervading presence of the Supreme Being, habitual acknowledgment of his power and goodness, and humble and devout submission to the divine will, from motives of the most serious and sacred import, it will not be easy to find, in any denomination of Christians, an individual more eminently distinguished than Washington.
How far these habits were prompted or confirmed by his particular belief in the Christian revelation, may be inferred from other passages in his writings, as well as from the whole tenor of his life, in regard to Christian worship and observances. The two following extracts are from his circular letter to the governors of the States, on the disbanding of the army, June 8th, 1783.
“ The free cultivation of letters, the unbounded extension of commerce, the progressive refinement of manners, the growing liberality of sentiment, and, above all, the pure and benign light of Revelation, have had a meliorating influence on mankind, and increased the blessings of society.”
"I now make iny earnest prayer, that God would have you, and the State over which you preside, in his holy protection ; that he would incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate the spirit of subordination and obedience to government ; to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellowcitizens of the United States at large, and particularly for their brethren who have served in the field; and, finally, that he would be most graciously pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind, which were the characteristics 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."
The same spirit appears in his reply to the address of the Bishops, Clergy, and Laity of the Protestant Episcopal Church. “ On this occasion it would ill become me to conceal the joy I have felt, in perceiving the fraternal affection, which appears to increase every day among the friends of genuine religion. It affords edifying prospects, indeed, to see Christians of every denomination dwell together in more charity, and conduct themselves in respect to each other with a more Christian-like spirit than ever they have done in any former age, or in any other nation.” - August 19th, 1789.
In a letter to George Mason, respecting a bill, which had been brought before the Virginia legislature for establishing a provision for the support of teachers of the Christian religion by a general tax, he observed; “ Although no man's sentiments are more opposed to any kind of restraint upon religious principles than mine are, yet I confess, that I am not amongst the number of those, who are so much alarmed at the thoughts of making people pay towards the support of that which they profess.” — October 3d, 1785. From this passage it would seem, that he did not disapprove a legal provision for Christian teachers. But, at the same time, there are many evidences to show, that this idea never bordered on intolerance. To Lafayette he wrote, alluding to the proceedings of the Assembly of Notables ; “I am not less ardent in my wish, that you may succeed in your plan of toleration in religious matters. Being no bigot myself, I am disposed to indulge the professors of Christianity in the church with that road to Heaven, which to them shall seem the most direct, plainest, easiest, and least liable to exception.” – August 15th, 1787. Again, in a letter to Sir Edward Newenham ; “Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought most to be deprecated. I was in hopes, that the enlightened and liberal policy, which has marked the present age, would at least have reconciled Chris.