A group blog to promote discussion, debate and insight into the history, particularly religious, of America's founding. Any observations, questions, or comments relating to the blog's theme are welcomed.
While in private life, Washington attended church services about once a month. As president, he attended more often, and while he undoubtedly believed in faith as an important component of public virtue, nothing in his personal behavior indicates a high degree of attachment to conservative Christian dogma. He had a habit of leaving services before communion, a practice that angered some pastors.
Nor was Washington one to spend Sundays in quiet prayer and contemplation. Accounts of enslaved people from Mount Vernon plantation speak of frivolity on Sunday, with drinking and card playing being the norm.
Claude Blanchard, a French military officer who dined with Washington, later wrote in his journal that he was surprised there was no formal grace. Blanchard noted, “We remained a very long time at the table. They drank 12 or 15 healths with Madeira wine. In the course of the meal beer was served and grum, rum mixed with water.”
When Washington died in December 1799, he broke with custom of the day and did not call for a minister to be present at his bedside. Historian Joseph Ellis observed, “He died as a Roman Stoic rather than a Christian saint.”