Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Washington Saves the Pope...Sort Of

Guy Fawkes Night (or "Pope Day" as it was called in colonial America) is coming up this Thursday. And as was commonly the case, Guy Fawkes Night was celebrated in colonial America with the ritual burning in effigy of the Catholic Pope, which most American Protestants embraced with glee.

That is, unless you were a member of George Washington's army. In his November 5, 1775 General Orders to the Continental Army, Washington strictly forbade the practice of burning the Pope in effigy or the mockery of Catholicism in general:
As the Commander in Chief has been apprized of a design form'd for the observance of that ridiculous and childish custom of burning the Effigy of the pope -- He cannot help expressing his surprise that there should be Officers and Soldiers in this army so void of common sense, as not to see the impropriety of such a step at this Juncture; at a Time when we are solliciting, and have really obtain'd, the friendship and alliance of the people of Canada, whom we ought to consider as Brethren embarked in the same Cause. The defence of the general Liberty of America: At such a juncture, and in such Circumstances, to be insulting their Religion, is so monstrous, as not to be suffered or excused; indeed instead of offering the most remote insult, it is our duty to address public thanks to these our Brethren, as to them we are so much indebted for every late happy Success over the common Enemy in Canada.


Phil Johnson said...


Thanks for posting that.

Brad Hart said...

Thanks, Pinky! I thought it was sort of interesting as well. Washington certainly practiced what he preached!

Tom Van Dyke said...

Exc, Brad. I ran across it meself only a few weeks ago and it was on my to-do list.

I think it fit GWash's personality and sentiments about religion, but it may also have been very helpful in later winning pre-Revolutionary [Catholic] France's support per Lafayette, etc.

Brad Hart said...

I think it's also interesting to see (in this General Order) how so many believed that Canada was literally going to go along with the United States hand-in-hand. Of course we all know that it didn't turn out that smoothly, but I imagine that taking a stance like this (and others) certainly helped matters quite a bit.

Phil Johnson said...

I read this book back in the late 50's: http://www.amazon.com/American-Freedom-Catholic-Power-Blanshard/dp/0313246203

I can't remember the details; but, recall that it dealt with Canada in regards to American history.
If you can get your hands on a copy, it might be quite enlightening.

Phil Johnson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Phil Johnson said...

Just to subscribe to this thread.

Bruce J said...

Brad wrote: "interesting to see how so many believed that Canada was literally going to go along with the United States"

A couple of observations:

1) Washington's argument was based on the bit of initial support received in 1774-75 by certain Canadians, esp. in the are of Montreal (this, I believe, in response to letters from the First Continental Congress)

2) The order envisions this support-- and it hopes soon that of others -- as of "Brothers" engaged "in the same Cause". But let us be clear -- this did not mean that he or others expected, in the fall of 1775, that Canadians would join them to form "the United States", for the simple reason that at this point the only goal was the recovery of rights (and such things as opening of the port of Boston), not yet independence.