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The Tale of George Washington’s Death Reveals He Was Probably NOT Christian

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One of a Kind – Washington’s Retreat & Crossings Map on parchment, signed and numbered by the artist, Mike Church

Mandeville, LA – Exclusive Transcript Kevin Gutzman:“There is argument over the question exactly how devoid of Christian meaning we should see these kinds of terms as being.  One way of understanding [George] Washington’s personal belief, I think, is to skip ahead to his death.  His death scene became the grist of a very popular pamphlet. First they bled him.  Then they blistered him.  Then they gave him emetics.  Of course, the word emetic is from the Greek word emeto, which means “I vomit.”  They gave him these things to make him vomit.  Then when that didn’t make him better, they gave him diuretics, which means he was hyperproductive on the other end of the system.”  Check out today’s transcript AND Clip of The Day for the rest….

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Begin Mike Church Show Transcript

Mike:  I was thinking earlier when you were telling the story about the mob that gathered outside of his residence, that that was the product of a treaty.  That was a product of the Jay Treaty.  There was outrage.  There was public outrage over the Jay Treaty when John Jay came back with it, correct?

Kevin Gutzman:  Yes, when Jay got back from Britain, he said he could have traveled from Charleston to Philadelphia from the light of his own effigies.  His point was he actually witnessed in several places where people were burning little dolls with his name on them, as emblems of burning him, which was emblematic not of ISIS-like behavior, but of disapproving of what the treaty said.  Of course, people didn’t actually know what the treaty said, but there were rumors that it was not as anti-British and the republicans hoped it would be.

Mike:  We have a caller here.  This is Steve in New York.  Steve, you’re on with Professor Gutzman on George Washington’s birthday.  How you doing?

Caller Steve:  Good.  How you doing?

Mike:  I am well, thank you.

Caller Steve:  I thought of something else while I was pondering that question, and that is, not only would that make him a Pisces, but did they pay any attention to any of the astrological signs or any of that?  You were just talking about burning something in effigy.  I was just kind of wondering what the history of that might be.

Mike:  In other words, Kevin, if he was born on February 11th, that would make him an Aquarian, but if you move it to February 22nd, that would make him a Pisces.  I don’t think there was any astrological discussions in the Washington White House.  Most people don’t know this – and perhaps you can shed a little light on this – Washington was a Mason, and he did participate in the laying of the Capitol cornerstone in full Mason regalia and garb.  As a matter of fact, I think it was Lafayette’s wife had knitted something for him as a Mason robe or something to that effect and had sent it to him, and that’s what he was wearing when they laid the cornerstone.  Correct?

Gutzman:  Yes.  Washington was a Mason.  People may be familiar with that or not.  Actually, the Masonic Order is something whose content has changed over time.  In the late 18th century, it was essentially a Western European, and, of course, that included American, association of people who stood for kind of enlightenment, vaguely stated.  Washington was a lifelong member of the Anglican Church, the Episcopal Church.  He was an active vestryman.  In fact, he and George Mason, the two of them together paid for construction of the chapel between their houses, which was the one used by locals, and in fact still is to this day.

He was a vestryman, of course, Washington, which means he was one of the local magnates who served as the board of governors or board of deacons, the committee of laymen who really had the power in the local Anglican Church.  In theory, of course, the Episcopal Church is run by bishops.  In colonial North America, there never was an Episcopal bishop; no bishop was ever sent here.  The nominally Episcopal Church in Virginia actually was run by these local vestries, committees of local magnates like Mason and Washington, who were neighbors.  In public he usually used enlightenment terminology in reference to the deity.  He would use terms like “providence” or “supervising providence,” that kind of thing.  He didn’t –

Mike:  Supreme ruler was one of his favorites.

Gutzman:  Right.  There is argument over the question exactly how devoid of Christian meaning we should see these kinds of terms as being.  One way of understanding Washington’s personal belief, I think, is to skip ahead to his death.  His death scene became the grist of a very popular pamphlet.  It was a very famous story that on his deathbed Washington – he, of course, died of being rich.  That is, he was an old man – old in those days.  He was in his late 60s.  He, of course, was retired from the military, retired from politics, supervising his gigantic estate, which was 8500 acres.  It’s just a principality with hundreds of slaves.  Actually, he was the kind of slave master who decided he didn’t like slavery, so he ultimately decided he would not sell anybody.  By the time of his death, he had about a third more people on Mount Vernon than he had any work for.  He kept them only because he didn’t want to sell them.  Being sold was about the worst thing that could happen to a slave.  This was a humane decision.  Ultimately, of course, we know that in his will Washington freed all of his slaves.

Anyway, back to his deathbed.  On his deathbed, he had gone out riding and supervising.  When he came back, he told Martha that he had a sore throat.  He then went to bed and apparently his sore throat got worse.  She called the best doctors in America and unfortunately they came.  What happened was they bled him, they butchered him.  They rolled him over on his stomach and put hot glass on his back.  This was supposed to be conducive to regularizing the humors in his body.  This is the idea from Galen, who was a third or fourth century Greek-speaking doctor who came up with the idea that an imbalance among the humors in your body was the reason why you got a fever or got a sore stomach.  First they bled him.  Then they blistered him.  Then they gave him emetics.  Of course, the word emetic is from the Greek word emeto, which means “I vomit.”  They gave him these things to make him vomit.  Then when that didn’t make him better, they gave him diuretics, which means he was hyperproductive on the other end of the system.  After being bled and blistered, made to vomit and given diarrhea, the poor guy died.

Mike:  It sounds like he was treated by the modern-day CIA.

Gutzman:  I was going to say, if people had been treated this way at Gitmo, Eric Holder’s law firm would have been springing them.  This is the kind of treatment that we’re told is criminal if you do it to a terrorist.  But, again, only the wealthiest people in America could have afforded this lavish suite of medical attention that Washington was given because he was the wealthiest man in Virginia.  He could afford to pay these guys to come.  Later they wrote accounts of the fabulous things they’d done to him.  I think, if you just think about being sick and then think about being made to throw up and made to have diarrhea, bled over and over – they bled him copiously.  I think probably the bleeding itself would have been sufficient to kill him.  That wasn’t all they did to him.

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Mike:  If you read John Marshall’s account – Marshall had access to all the papers.  Marshall’s account is very detailed in this regard.  I think Washington Irving’s account, because it’s written by a novelist, is easier to read and more entertaining to read.  That’s exactly what happened.  He wasn’t responding to being bled.  They put leaches on him, too.  You left out the part about the leeches.  They stuck leeches on him.  Because he wasn’t responding to being tortured, they increased what they were doing to him, finally to the point where George Washington, the old fellow, could barely breathe to make a request to ask them to stop.  Just let me die.  Just leave me alone.  They finally did.  Of course, he does expire on the 14th of December 1799.  That’s the end of the story of the first president, the “father of our country.”

Gutzman:  I didn’t get quite to the question of how this reflected on his religious belief.  While he’s in the process of the emetics and the diuretics and the blistering and the bleeding, he was asked whether he would like to have an Anglican, that is, an Episcopal priest, come and give him last rites and communion and he said no.  You would think that if he were a devout Anglican he would want to take communion on his deathbed but he did not want that.  I think that may be instructive concerning his own belief.

End Mike Church Show Transcript

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