Thursday, January 3, 2008

Response concerning Washington's Faith

This blog post has moved! It's now on my own website, here:

Response concerning Washington's Faith


Steve said...

There's no doubt that Washington was a religious man of faith and conviction.

Thanks for this post. I wrote an essay that tells the story of Reverend Nathaniel Snowden coming upon Washington praying. I think you'll enjoy it.

It can be found here:

Our Founding Truth said...


Where is the exact words for Washington's Prayer at Valley Forge, I can't find it.


Hercules Mulligan said...

Hi OFT. Good to hear from you again. I have noticed that you have updated your blog, and I look forward to reading and seriously considering your posts. I will do so as soon as possible; your post on Hobbes appears to be especially intriguing, considering Hamilton's comments on Hobbes' basic theory (the denial of the ultimate authority of God) to be "absurd and impious." Your presentation of Hobbes' own writings will be considered seriously and with deep reflection.

To answer your question: I am not certain that there is any record of the exact words of Washington's Prayer at Valley Forge (have you heard of any such record?). The earliest account of Washington's Prayer is a second-hand account from the diary of the Rev. Snowden. Rev. Snowden relates a conversation with a Mr. Isaac Potts, a formerly staunch tory Quaker who was converted to the cause of America by hearing Washington's prayers at Valley Forge. According to Snowden, Potts related:

'There,' said he, 'laid the army of Washington. It was a most distressing time of ye war, and all were for giving up the Ship but that great and good man. In that woods pointing to a close in view, I heard a plaintive sound as, of a man at prayer. I tied my horse to a sapling & went quietly into the woods & to my astonishment I saw the great George Washington on his knees alone, with his sword on one side and his cocked hat on the other. He was at Prayer to the God of the Armies, beseeching to interpose with his Divine aid, as it was ye Crisis, & the cause of the country, of humanity & of the world. Such a prayer I never heard from the lips of man. I left him alone praying."

I think from this passage we can get a clue of some words and phrases which Washington used: "God of Armies," "interpose" or "intervene," etc.

I am not aware of any recorded text of Washington's prayer, but a lack of such record is (A)not surprising, and (B)does not disprove that Washington prayed at Valley Forge.

It is not surprising, because Washington perhaps would not have taken the pain-staking time to write it all down (he hardly had time to write his own letters; his aides did a lot of that for him), and Potts, who heard the prayer, says that he left Washington alone to pray, perhaps out of respect for Washington.

A lack of such a record does not throw heavy dowoubt upon whether Washington prayed at Valley Forge; the conversion of Potts, the success of the American cause against all physical odds (and Washington gave all of the credit to God for that), the innumerable eyewitness testimonies of his closest friends, observers, and family members, leaves no room for doubt that Washington did indeed pray at Valley Forge.

I am sorry I could not be of more help to you in this case.

God bless you and yours.

P.S. I hope your book on Hamilton and your blog on Sammy Adams are going well. Could you let me know when they are available? I would be very grateful.


Brad Hart said...


This is great stuff! I absolutly LOVE hearing your take on the founders and religion.

Hercules Mulligan said...

Hi Brad, and thanks for commenting. I appreciate your input equally. Please feel free to add your thoughts at your own convenience.

Brad Hart said...


Do you have a link or know of any source mentioning that Washington took communion after his inauguration? Someone made that claim on another blog, and I'd LOVE to have the source if it is true.

Hercules Mulligan said...

Hi Brad. Thanks for your question; I'm more than happy to respond. fortunately, my evening was freed up to respond to your question.

Yes, there is a source. Unfortunately, the text is not online (that I know of at this moment; I have done some looking around). But the material itself is held at the Columbia University Library system.

The record of the source that Washington took communion at St. Paul's Chapel upon his presidential inauguration, is here, entitled, "Mrs. Alexander Hamilton, Witness that George Washington was a communicant of the Church."

I am not sure if the session times out, and if this link will still be available to you by the time you get this. If it is not available, just visit the homepage here, where you will see (near the top) a search bar. Just type in "Mrs. Alexander Hamilton," and it will take you straight to the record.

Because I myself have not viewed the actual pages or words, and have not found them anywhere else (yet), I really do not know the actual content. However, Peter Lillback does give more detail about here, on a short video clip about Washington that Brian Tubbs posted a while back ago.

If I may add another interesting postscript, there is evidence that the testimonies of Revds. Wilson and Abercrombie are probably not the most honest or informed observers and commenters on Washington's religion. A man named Origen Bachelor who was a contemporary of theirs, went on an investigation, and questioned these men. Although he ascertained that they did hold the opinion that Washington was unorthodox, yet in the course of investigation, he found that their conjectures were groundless. Wilson even refused to submit some sources to prove some of the other claims he had made in his sermon about the "godless" foundation of our nation. I will post the pages from which I gathered this information at my earliest convenience.

I hope that this information is helpful. Thanks again for your comment. Come again!