Friday, August 8, 2008

Washington's Prayer Journal: Fact NOT Fiction

Dan Atkinson

For my second installment on this blog, I would like to pick up with some comments made in my previous post regarding George Washington's prayer journal. As could be expected, Jon Rowe and Brad Hart came down on the side that the journal is an utter fabrication that is clearly not the work of our Commander-in-Chief. This conclusion, which is based purely on speculation and not fact, has been tossed around irresponsibly for decades and has caused most people to believe in this utter falsehood.

Originally discovered in 1891, the Washington Prayer Journal has electrified both supporters and denouncers of Washington's Christian faith. As can be seen from a sample from this journal, the language used clearly supports a deep abiding faith in Jesus Christ, which has naturally caused friction between secularists and believers. Here is just a sample from the Journal for you examine:


"O most Glorious God, in Jesus Christ my merciful & loving father, I acknowledge and confess [illegible] guilt, in the weak and imperfect performance of the duties of this day. I have called on thee for pardon and forgiveness of sins, but so coldly and carelessly, that my prayers are become my sin and stand in need of pardon. I have heard thy holy word, but with such deadness of spirit that I have been an unprofitable and forgetful hearer, so that, O Lord, tho' I have done thy work, yet it hath been so negligently that I may rather expect a curse than a blessing from thee. But, O God, who art rich in mercy and plenteous in redemption, mark not I beseech thee what I have done amiss, remember that i am but dust, and remit my transgressions, negligences, & ignorances, & cover them all with the absolute obedience of thy dear Son, that those sacrifices which I have offered may be accepted by thee, in and for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ offered upon the cross for me..."


As can clearly be seen from the above text, George Washington (or the mystery author for you that doubt) invokes a deeply personal faith in salvation through Jesus Christ.

Of course this journal is not without its skeptics. Rupert Hughes, an alleged expert in handwriting (even though he lived in the 1920s when handwriting analysis was nothing like it is today) argued that the Washington Prayer Journal was an utter fraud:


"The impossibility of the work being in Washington's hand should be apparent to the most casual comparison. The writer of the Prayers, for instance, always crosses his final "t's," and all his "t's" are squatty and fat. Washington always wrote a tall thin "t," and usually ended it with a mere sidewise uplift. Little words like "and," "the," "this," and "most" are utterly unlike Washington's other examples, early or late. The capital "I" is not like his, nor the familiar "G," nor the "L," nor the "D," nor any of the capitals. The same is true of the small letters, their joinings and angles. The dates and days of the week are not in the least like his. "

Yet Dr. Tim LaHaye, a legitimate expert of theology who has had his own handwriting experts analyse the Washington Journal stated the following:


"That President George Washington was a devout believer in Jesus Christ and had accepted Him as His Lord and Savior is easily demonstrated by a reading of his personal prayer book (written in his own handwriting), which was discovered in 1891 among a collection of his papers. To date no historian has questioned its authenticity... An objective reading of these beautiful prayers verifies that were George Washington living today, he would freely identify with the Bible-believing branch of evangelical Christianity that is having such a positive influence on our nation."
Another important factor to consider in this debate is the fact that George Washington's handwriting changed over the course of his lifetime. Don't believe me? See for yourself. Here are some handwriting samples of George Washington for you to see what I am talking about:

Sample from 1735:

Sample from 1752:
Sample from 1792:

After enduring the hardships of an eight-year war, it comes as no surprise that an elderly Washington was not as steady with his pen. Clearly his handwriting was much sharper and clearer in his youth, which is the age of the prayer journal.

In conclusion, this should serve as irrefutable evidence to anyone that is willing to be honest with themselves that George Washington was a passionate believer in Jesus Christ.

18 comments:

Brad Hart said...

Sorry Mr. Atkinson but I am afraid I will have to disagree with you for several reasons:

1.) You make it sound as though the only handwriting analysis ever done on the Washington prayer journal was done decades ago. This is not the case. The very best handwriting experts with the FBI have poured over this document and have concluded it to NOT be in the handwriting of GW.

Also, keep in mind that handwriting analysis takes into account changes over time. Having worked in law enforcement for a few years I had the opportunity to talk with handwriting experts. They are VERY qualified and trained to take into account a number of factors when it comes to handwriting.

2.) Your first handwriting sample, which you date as 1735, I find very interesting, especially when we consider the fact that Washington was born in 1732!!! Are you telling me that baby Washington could write like that at 3??? I have a three-year-old and I have never seen him write like that!

3.)Tim LaHaye, who you site as a "legitimate expert" is completely wrong on this matter. You quote LaHaye as saying:

"To date no historian has questioned its authenticity"

This could not be further from the truth. A countless number of historians -- dare I say the overwhelming MAJORITY -- not only question but completely doubt the validity of the Washington prayer journal.

Also, I don’t know if this website is where you got the handwriting sample images, but check it out:

http://deb8n1.com/religion/George_Washington/index.html

Once there, scroll down almost all the way to the bottom. There you will find the handwriting samples. Contrary to what Mr. Atkinson is saying here, these handwriting samples were actually used to DISPROVE the validity of the Washington journal, not defend it.

Sorry, but the prayer journal in question is not that of George Washington.

Jonathan Rowe said...

What Brad said. It's a fraud; even Peter Lillback and Peter Marshall now back away from it. And LaHaye's book on the Founding Fathers belongs in the "fiction" section with his Left Behind series.

Raven said...

Brad Hart says:

Are you telling me that baby Washington could write like that at 3??? I have a three-year-old and I have never seen him write like that!

Priceless!

Publius said...

As much as I'd like to believe this is Washington's journal, quoting Tim LaHaye's cache of legitimate experts does not go to far in establishing such claim. Mr. Hart above gives some solid examples to the contrary, though I would like at least one link to a respected Christian historian who agrees with this view (I.E., Mark Noll, George Marsden, etc. if this if fair?). Or maybe just a respected historian not completely in the secular camp. Not sure how fair it is to categories in such a way, I just know that many if not most historians are of the latter type, and quite willing to deny the journal as Washington's because of previously held beliefs.

Brad Hart said...

Publius:

I sincerely doubt that Noll or any other legitimate historian -- Christian or secular leaning -- would lend credence to the "Washington prayer journal." As Jon states it is nothing more than a fraud. I would be literally shocked if a legitimate historian ever cited the journal as a legitimate souce.

Dan Atkinson said...

Ok, so I admit getting the year wrong on the image. Thanks for pointing it out. 1745 instead of 1735. A thirteen-year-old Washington could write like that don't you think?

As for the rest of Brad Hart's critique, I feel that he is greatly overemphasizing the science and impact of these alleged handwriting samples. Handwriting DOES change over time and it DOES have an impact on how that handwriting analysis comes out. Also, we are talking about 18th century documents that have deteriorated over time, making handwriting analysis less than certain.

As for Tim LaHaye, you can say whatever you want about his writing. I think it is a sign of secular arrogance for Brad and Jon to consider Lahaye's work to be nothing more than "fiction."

Give me something that proves 100% that the Washington Journal is, as Brad and Jon state, "a fraud." You have not presented it as of yet.

Larry Cebula said...

What an odd post!

Give us even a hint of evidence that this journal is the work of Washington. It doesn't sound like any of his other writings, it expresses sentiments found no where else in his writings, it is not in his handwriting, it does not bear his name, and it was discovered years after his death.

How could we doubt it?

Brad Hart said...

Amen, Dr. Cebula!

Gotta love overzealous Christian Nationalism!

bpabbott said...

Dan Atkinson posts: "Washington's Prayer Journal: Fact NOT Fiction"

Larry Cebula replies: "Give us even a hint of evidence that this journal is the work of Washington. It doesn't sound like any of his other writings, it expresses sentiments found no where else in his writings, it is not in his handwriting, it does not bear his name, and it was discovered years after his death."

Larry, I'd say "short and sweet", but I find your comment a great review :-)

Dan, welcome to the world of peer-review!

jimmiraybob said...

Dan,

I don’t know what kind of rigor they may expect in the ASU Department of Religious Studies but your labeling of the images that you use are either intentionally mislabeled in an attempt to fudge evidence not supportive of your position or your scholarship is sloppy. It would greatly help if you would provide links (or citations if links aren't available) to your sources so that the evidence you present can be independently examined.

These are the captions – respectively – at this site for the images that you present:

1) GW's 1745 copy book: (your caption: Sample from 1735:[sic])

2) GW's 1752 diary: (your caption: Sample from 1752:)

3) Daily Sacrifice (Prayer Journal) handwriting (allegedly 1752): (your caption: Sample from 1792:[sic])

Since GW was not a youth in 1792 and your third sample appears to be from the prayer journal that you acknowledge is from his youth then something doesn't add up. Is your source wrong or is the one that I cited wrong?

Notice that the second and third of the examples that you present are each apparently from 1752. This does not bode well for your assertion that handwriting changes over time (and your secondary speculation that the war may have changed GWs writing). There is another example from GW's journal dated 1760 available at the site.

Dan - "...an alleged expert in handwriting..."

Do you have evidence to the contrary?

Dan - "I think it is a sign of secular arrogance for Brad and Jon to consider Lahaye's work to be nothing more than 'fiction.'"

Hmm, more ad hominem. No, it's a matter of scholarship.

bpabbott said...

Dan commented: "I think it is a sign of secular arrogance for Brad and Jon to consider Lahaye's work to be nothing more than 'fiction.' Give me something that proves 100% that the Washington Journal is, as Brad and Jon state, 'a fraud.' You have not presented it as of yet."

? ? ? ? ... Dan, Please explain your comment above.

Do you object to the insistence of evidence, or the lack in faith, on the part of Brad & Jon, that your unsubstantiated opinion is the truth?

Please do not attack my implied qualification that your position is founded in faith. Such has already been clarified by your stated opinion that Brad and Jon debate from a secular position.

Also keep in mind that Secularism is not an affront to religion and/or faith ... Secularism is not an affront to religion, provided evidence and reason do not have to yield to doctrine and dogma.

MinutemanPatriot said...

I found this blog searching for a good G.W. quote & find, yet again, a disagreement between someone of faith and some flaming atheists. I've seen it before - and often.

Between faith and atheism there is no common ground, so why would atheists insist on piling up on a blog touching upon a matter of faith? It is as senseless as a godly man wanting to nag atheists on their blog. Neither side will be converted; any reasonable individual knows this. But what I see are atheists coming onto a believer's blog to 'pick an argument' with someone expressing their thoughts in what is SUPPOSED to be a free medium. Apparently no Christian is permitted to express himself online without harassment from a gang of atheists, and I specifically say 'Christian' because in all my life never (even online) have I seen atheists go to lengths to dispute and niggle every little thing with Buddhists, Hindus, Pagans, Muslims, or possibly Jews. Nothing I have seen explains the paucity of 'debate' (and I use that term VERY LOOSELY) with people of religions other than Christianity. That being the case, I have to ask myself, "Why do atheists have it out for Christians?" Why, to the relative exclusion of other religions, have I seen so many atheists express an intolerance for the Christian faith? If a man believes that the writings of the founding fathers are evidence of their belief in "God Almighty" (or even a generic, deist belief that someone CREATED the universe), why do atheists have this compulsion to 'gang up' on him? No opinion is going to changed by it, and nothing is gained through such 'debate'! What I've seen goes beyond a mere difference of opinion.

Atheism, or humanism, or whatever you want to call it, is essentially a negativist value system. Therefore, atheists must go on the attack and negate any evidences presented for God's existence in order to give intellectual weight to their position. If they can create an evidential vacuum in which no deistic argument can survive, their position can be seen as more intellectually viable. It is in the negation of theistic proofs and evidences through circular reasoning that atheism achieves its self-justification.

At best, atheists can only say that there are no convincing evidences for God presented to them, so far. They cannot say there are no evidences for God because they cannot know that none exist anywhere. The atheist can only say that the evidence so far presented has been insufficient, in their judgment. That there could still be evidence presented in the future cannot be honestly refuted; an atheist cannot deny that there may indeed be an absolute proof that has so far gone undiscovered and that the existence of God is still possible. But that is NOT what atheists claim; theirs is an absolute rejection of even the possibility of God without anything to back it up, and the rejection of a need to 'prove' their argument. That is what makes atheism/humanism a RELIGION. This is also WHY atheists need to attack Christianity. It is because Christianity makes very high claims concerning God's existence, claims so specific and numerous that it directly challenges their atheism and pokes holes in their vacuum. They like the vacuum. In spite of claiming to believe in no god, atheists do have a god, and it is the only god they tolerate in their universe: themselves.

Mr. Atkinson, pay no heed to these pseudo-academic ruffians. The proofs of the Christian faith of the founders was, and remains, well documented in spite of these people's refusal to face reality. I would have blogged at greater length, but your site imposes certain character limits so please read the rest of my thoughts at http://www.minutemanpatriot.homestead.com/onatheism.html

bpabbott said...

@MinutemanPatriot,

Those participating here are encouraged to avoid specific or general personal attacks.

Critique of a posts content and reasoning is encouraged, but please no insults.

Note, also, that you've posted to a thread that is a year old. Feel free to join in the current discussions.

MinutemanPatriot said...

Mr. Abbott: Thanks for bringing the date of the article to my attention; I misread the date. I also stand by my post, no part of it was directed or intended as a personal attack against anyone in particular. Also, for the record, I am a libertarian Christian: while I may disagree most vehemently with the arguments, tactics, and general worldview of atheist activists, I believe in freedom of conscience / freedom of thought and will defend even this against tyrannical infringement. I'll be sure to look for the most recent posts.

Kevin Webb said...

While I am a firm believer that Washington's prayer journal was in fact published by Washington himself, there are some extreme contradictions in these sample writings.

With that said, the contradictions flow across all 3 of these samples, not just between two of them.

Are at least 2 of these sample writings confirmed 100% to be the writings of Washington?

This would greatly influence the analysis of these writings.

If someone can address these questions, then I would be more than happy to provide my own personal analysis.

bpabbott said...

Kevin,

Pls note this post is from 2008. You may not get much interaction here. Please feel free to engage in the current discussions.

Regarding the prayer journal, the debate may be parsed along lines of belief, or along lines of evidence.

For the latter, the burden lies with the one making the assertion that it *is* GW's personal prayer journal.

There have been statements that asserting it is GW's prayer journal is fraudulent. I understand that to be the case. Meaning the evidence does not support the claim.

In short, the prayer journal is not consistent with George Washington's public expression and/or writings.

However, I do *not* consider it fraudulent to say "it could be George Washington's prayer journal". GW was quite the fox when it came to revealing the nature of any doctrines he may have embraced.

In my opinion, I think he'd be pleased to know you believed him to support your religious convictions and he be pleased to know those with different convictions shared the same sentiment.

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