A rider on horseback, many years ago, came upon a squad of soldiers who were trying to move a heavy piece of timber. A corporal stood by, giving lordly orders to "heave." But the piece of timber was a trifle too heavy for the squad.
"Why don't you help them?" asked the quiet man on the horse, addressing the important corporal
"Me? Why , I'm a corporal sir!" Dismounting, the stranger carefully took his place with the soldiers.
"Now, all together boys---heave!" he said. And the big piece of timber slid into place. The stranger mounted his horse and addressed the corporal.
"The next time you have a piece of timber for your men to handle, corporal, send for the commander-in-chief."
The horseman was George Washington.
President George Washington, September 17th, 1796 "It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible"
His Prayer At Valley Forge "Almighty and eternal Lord God, the great Creator of heaven and earth, and the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; look down from heaven in pity and compassion upon me Thy servant, who humbly prostrates myself before Thee."
"Bless O Lord the whole race of mankind, and let the world be filled with the knowledge of Thee and Thy Son, Jesus. "Of all dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens."
"To the distinguished character of a Patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of a Christian."
The draft of the circular letter is in the hand of a secretary, although the signature is Washington's. Some have called this concluding paragraph "Washington's Prayer." In it, he asked God 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 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."
George Washington as he resigned his commission as general of the Continental Army on December 23, 1783. "I consider it an indispensable duty to close this last solemn act of my official life by commending the interests of our dearest country to the protection of Almighty God and those who have the superintendence of them into His holy keeping."
Washington Avowed God's BlessingThere has been debate as to whether Washington indeed offered his famous "Prayer of Valley Forge." Apparently there is a lack of the authentication with which the historian seeks to monument his recordings in all the solemnity of established fact. Yet, why, it may be asked, should people of a Christian nation, professing a trust in the Supreme Being, proclaiming that profession even on the minted coin of barter and trade, inscribing it on their secular and legal documents, displaying an allegorical plaque on their Sub-Treasury in New York depicting the actual scene of the prayer -- why, it seems pertinent to inquire, should they discard that faith in one more tradition which places the great and lonely Man of Valley Forge as the centerpiece of an act that indicates a profession of faith in the efficacy of prayer.
Is it not reasonable to believe that a man who had, on frequent occasions, paid homage publicly to the God of all nations and earnestly exhorted his soldiers and his fellow countrymen to "express our grateful acknowledgements to God, for the manifold blessings he has granted to us," may have sought seclusion for his own private communion with the Father. Surely the evidence of Washington's faith is sufficiently established to satisfy a layman, if not an historian.
He called a general thanks to God for December 18, 1777, as provided by Congressional resolution, but more to the point are his words written to the Rev. Israel Evans, Chaplain to Poor's New Hampshire Brigade. Mr. Evans had caused his sermon, as delivered at Gulph Mills the day before the entry into Valley Forge, to be printed by Francis Bailey at Lancaster and one of these imprints reached Washington March 12, 1778. From Headquarters, Valley Forge, the next day, March 13, Washington wrote Mr. Evans as follows:
"Revd. Sir: Your favor of the 17th. Ulto., inclosing the discourse which you delivered on the 18th. of December; the day set a part for a general thanksgiving; to Genl. Poors' Brigade, never came to my hands till yesterday.Is it too hard to believe a man who sets down in writing the first wish of his heart is "to inculcate a due sense of the dependence we ought to place in that All wise and powerful Being on whom alone our Success depends," may have sought Divine Guidance, through prayer, in the darkest hour of the conflict for human rights.
"I have read this performance with equal attention and pleasure, and at the same time that I admire, and feel the force of the reasoning which you have displayed through the whole, it is more especially incumbent upon me to thank you for the honorable, but partial mention you have made of my character; and to assure you, that it will ever be the first wish of my heart to aid your pious endeavors to inculcate a due sense of the dependence we ought to place in that all wise and powerful Being on whom alone our success depends; and moreover, to assure you, that with the respect and regard, I am, etc."
Above all else at Valley Forge Washington held to his faith, and prayer was an essential of his belief -- whether vocal in the wooded tract, silent in the stable stall, on bended knee at the bedside or in concert with associates at public service. It is well for men's souls to feel that a leader of men sought and obtained guidance from the Son of Man.
George Washington shocked General Lafayette one morning by merely being, what the father of our country described as, a gentleman. It seems George Washington and Lafayette were talking together when a slave passed. The old colored man paused, tipped his hat and said, "Good Mo'nin, Gen'l Washin'ton."
Immediately George Washington removed his hat, bowed and wished the man a pleasant day.
After a moment of shocked silence General Lafayette exclaimed, "Why did you bow to a slave?"
The great man smiled and replied, "I would not allow him to be a better gentleman than I."
Michael H. Hart calls Washington "the predominant figure in the establishment of the United States of America."
The United States was fortunate indeed to have as its first president a man of the caliber and character of George Washington. As can be seen from the history of many [other young nations] it is all too easy for a new nation -- even if it starts out with a democratic constitution -- to degenerate into a military dictatorship.
Washington was not as original or incisive a thinker as some of the other leaders of the day ....
Nevertheless, he was far more important that any of those more brilliant men; for Washington, both in war and in peace, supplied the vital ingredient of executive leadership, without which no political revolution can succeed. [Others' roles were important; but] Washington's was well-nigh indispensible.