First of all: George Washington did NOT cut a cherry tree. The fable had young Washington festering until he “barked” his father’s precious sapling.
However, the whole story is a moral lesson invented by the patriot’s first biographer, a former Anglican pastor and peddler of the Bible named Mason L. Weems.
Known throughout the country as “Parson” Weems, he wrote several books on good conduct to supplement his biblical treatises.
His most popular book was: “The life of George Washington with curious anecdotes, equally honorable for him and exemplary for his young compatriots”.
The book was published a year after Washington’s death in December 1799. It contained a great deal of factual information, but it also released various captions, which made our first president seem somewhat prudish.
This is unfortunate because myths have obscured the true personality of our first president. He was a man of great dignity, but a vital and emotional man. He was ambitious, hard-working, and sensitive to others.
Washington’s integrity was recognized by everyone he met. However, he worked his entire life to control his temper.
There is no documentation for the charming history of the Weem cherry tree. He writes that he heard the story of “a distant relative close to the family.”
A close relative claimed that they had never heard the story. Nonetheless, the alleged incident is in keeping with the personality of Washington’s childhood.
He was instructed until he was 11 years old by his father, Agustín. Elder Washington emphasized honesty and obedience, as George’s marked textbooks and copy papers that still exist attest.
After the death of his father, young Washington taught himself the art of surveying. At 15 he was already actively involved in that occupation. This trade steadily brought him to the border as far west as Ohio and Kentucky.
In 1754, Washington was sent by the Governor of Virginia to drive out a French force occupying a fort at the fork of the Ohio and Allegheny rivers, now Pittsburgh. The young American senior was defeated and forced to sign a humiliating surrender paper. It was the beginning of the War of France and India.
In later campaigns, George Washington vindicated himself and was chosen for several important military assignments.
Washington was 44 years old and a successful tobacco planter when the American Revolution began. As such, he was reluctant to militarily challenge the mother country.
However, he obeyed the call of the Continental Congress to take over the small army in Boston that had resisted the British besiegers at Breed Hill, not Bunker Hill as popularly recounted.
An honest man was needed to face the realities of an irrevocable break with Great Britain, to face the dangers and difficulties of creating a new nation against armed power.
The War of Independence is now remembered as the Revolutionary War. In fact, it was our most unpopular war, despite the Civil War and the Vietnam War. Many settlers were loyal to England and bitterly opposed to separation.
Washington’s patience and perseverance made a bad war a resounding success. He rightly deserves the nickname “Father of our country”.
It is regrettable that his true talents and accomplishments are obscured by the image of doing good that a well-meaning Parson Weems imposed on him.
For example, here is the full cherry tree story told by Weems enthusiasts:
I can’t tell a lie
“When George was about six years old, he became the wealthy master of an ax, who, like most young children, was immoderately fond of, constantly walking around and chopping everything in his way.
“One day in the garden where he often amused himself cutting his mother’s pea sticks, he unfortunately tested the edge of his ax on the body of a beautiful young English cherry tree, which barked so terribly that I can’t believe it. tree always improved it.
“The next morning, the old man (Washington’s father), learning what had happened to his tree – which, by the way, was a great favorite – entered the house. He warmly asked for the mischievous author. , stating at the same time, he would not have taken five guineas for his tree.
No one could tell him anything about it. At that moment, George and his ax made their appearance. ‘George,’ said his father, ‘do you know who killed that beautiful cherry tree in the garden?’
This was a difficult question, and George staggered under it for a moment, but recovered quickly. Looking at his father with the sweet face of youth, illuminated with the inexpressible allure of the all-conquering truth, he boldly cried out: “I can’t. Tell a lie, Dad. You know I can’t lie. I did it with my ax.
“‘Run into my arms, dear boy,’ his father shouted in the transports. ‘Run into my arms. I am glad, George, that you killed my tree because you have paid me a thousand times over for it. Such an act of heroism! in my son it is worth more than a thousand trees, although flowered with silver and their fruits of pure gold! ‘”.
I know you were here
Apparently Parson Weems was not satisfied that he had adequately described all of Washington’s virtues. He embellished it in the same book with another myth:
“One day Mr. Washington went to the garden and prepared a small bed of finely powdered soil. On it he wrote George’s name in large, full letters. Then he sprinkled plenty of cabbage seeds. He covered them and smoothed them very well with the roller.
“This bed he purposely prepared next to a gooseberry path that he knew would be honored by George’s visits when the fruits were ripe
It hadn’t been many mornings before George arrived with his eyes rolling and his little cheeks ready to burst with big news.
“‘Oh Daddy! Come here, come here. I’ll show you a sight like you’ve never seen in your whole life.'”
“The old man, suspecting what George was doing, shook his hand which he took with great enthusiasm; and throwing him across the garden, led him point-blank to the bed where it was written in large letters, and with all the freshness of fresh plants. sprouts: the full name of GEORGE WASHINGTON.
“‘There, Daddy,’ said George, in an ecstasy of amazement, ‘have you ever seen anything like this in your entire life? Who made it there?
“‘He grew up there by chance, I suppose, my son.’
“’Oh, Dad, you mustn’t say that chance did all this. In fact, someone did; And dare I say now, dad, you did it just to scare me because I’m your little one. ‘
“His father smiled and said, ‘Well, George, you got it right. In fact, I did; but not to scare you, my son, but to learn a great thing that I want you to understand. I want to introduce you to your real Father.’
“‘Stop, Dad, aren’t you my real father, who has always loved me and been so good to me?’
“‘Yes, George, I am your father, as the world calls him. I love you very much too. But yet, with all my love for you, I am just a poor, useless kind of father compared to one you have.
“‘Yes! I know quite well who you mean, Dad. You mean Almighty God, aren’t you, but where is Almighty God? I haven’t seen him yet.’
“‘It is true my son; but although you never saw him, he is always with you. You did not see me when ten days ago when I made this small plantation where you see your name in such beautiful green letters. You do not see me here, but you know that I was here .
“‘Yes, Dad, I know. I know you were here!'”
* * *
So far the poetic license. The truth does not need embroidery.
Washington was that rare historical figure: the right man at the right time and in the right place. His entire life was a dedication to the greatest good for the greatest number.
It wasn’t easy for him, but he worked to discipline his flaws, replacing pride with honesty, temperament with duty. His life is a more inspiring example of our own imperfect nature than the preaching of the moralists.
By tying his birthday with Abraham Lincoln’s on a convenient Presidents’ Day, to give us another long weekend, we may be missing the real lessons these great heroes left us.