Myth In Edward Lengel's Preventing George Washington

Katlyn Wlodyga
Dr. Ritter
25 September, 2016
Inventing George Washington To this day, George Washington remains one of the most influential figures in the history of our country. He has been revered throughout time and continues to inspire people even today. In Inventing George Washington, Edward Lengel explores the myths that have been created surrounding who Washington was as a person; myths that were created in order to carry our country through rough times in history. Lengel takes these myths and uses factual evidence to contradict them, also providing the reader with reasons Americans created this persona of Washington. Biographers sought to portray a noble hero who was all-knowing and pure. Lengel’s purpose is to show that
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The fact that Washington was not very open about his religion, on top of the lack of factual evidence on the topic, made it easy to create stories surrounding his stance on religion. For the most part, Washington seemed completely uninterested in religion; William Mead, however, created a fable devised upon the claims that Washington was a devout Christian, who had a sense of divine selection. Rumors began to spread claiming that Washington had the ability to predict the future of America, and he had a connection to the Holy Spirit. While he did acknowledge God and sometimes quoted the Bible, there is no concrete evidence that concludes that Washington was the religious, God-fearing man that America wanted him to be. There was speculation that Reverend John Gano performed a full-immersion baptism on Washington, but Lengel refutes this saying, “Washington never mentions Gano in his diaries or correspondence, and there is no record that the two ever met” (82). Another reason Americans created this idealization that Washington was a devout Christian is because there are multiple paintings that depict him kneeling in prayer at battle scenes. Lengel points out the irony that most of these paintings of Washington are strategically set at significant places around the U.S. in an effort to boost morale. “So while it is possible,” he writes, …show more content…
In this story, a young Washington gets a hatchet and cuts down his father’s beloved tree. When his father confronts him about it, he contemplates lying; however, his guilt gets the best of him, and he decides to come clean and confess that he did, in fact, cut down the tree. Washington’s father appreciated his son’s honesty and was no longer angry. While this is an inspiring story and a great lesson for young children, Lengel brings to light the realization that this is a fabricated story created by money-hungry author, Parson Weems. Lengel writes about him, “Weems was the father of popular history. A superb storyteller, he knew his audience- and gladly collected its money” (19). He realized the infatuation the American people had with Washington and ran with it in order to make a profit off of a counterfeit Washington story, much like Barnum did. Lengel uses Weems’ reputation to characterize him as one of the “celebrity-seeking pests”; therefore, discrediting his motives for writing “Cherry Tree” and proving his story to be fictional

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