Friday, January 15, 2016

Incessant Divagation

By Rick Jones, Husband of the Minister's Wife

Being the first elected executive of the United States of America was a huge responsibility for George Washington, because every time he did something new he set a presidential precedent.

Washington served two terms as president and refused to run for a third, though he could have won easily. His contribution to this nation led the United States Congress, in 1879, to declare Washington's birthday, February 22nd, a federal holiday, one of ten that exist today. In 1968 the Monday Holiday Law set the observance of Washington's birthday for the third Monday of February, which guarantees a three-day weekend, but also means that the observance will never actually fall on the anniversary of Washington's birth. This year the event falls on February 15th.

And call it what you wish, but the federal government has never changed the holiday from Washington's Birthday to Presidents Day.

Many legends have grown around the figure of our first president. Did he have wooden teeth? Did he father children with a slave? Did he throw a silver dollar across the Potomac River? [For insight into the last matter, see last year's article for July 10th]. One of the generally accepted myths about Washington is that he was born in Virginia. While that was the first state of which he was a legal resident, George Washington was actually born in the territory of Texas, which did not achieve statehood until 1845.

Augustine Washington, George's father, had never envisioned his son's military career, although he did want his child involved in politics. He even dared write in his journal about the possibility of George becoming the first president of the longed-for Republic of Texas. But that dream was dashed in 1738, when the child was just six years old.

It was a tomahawk, not a hatchet, that George was given for his 6th birthday. One day soon after, Augustine returned home to find, not a cherry tree, but his favorite saguaro cactus destroyed, chopped down in the side yard. He began to scream about vandalism by non-citizens, and muttered something about building a wall on the border with Mexico.

But when he questioned his son as a possible witness to the deed, young George answered, “Father, 'twas I who chopped down that saguaro cactus with my tomahawk.”

But, George,” Augustine wondered, “Why did you tell me this when I did not suspect you?” To this, the young boy who would one day become the first president of the United States of America replied, “I cannot tell a lie, Pa.”

His father just shook his head, imagining the tongue lashing he would get from his wife for giving a six year old boy a tomahawk as a birthday present. Then he shrugged his shoulders, and told his son, “Pack your things. I'm relocating our family to Virginia.”

Why, Pa? Has my disgraceful action shamed you before your peers?”

No, George,” was the reply. But if you cannot tell a lie, you'll never amount to anything in Texas politics.”

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