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  Volume 13, No. 1   Spring, 2003  

GEORGE WASHINGTON
Was he a Deist?

The question often arises, "Wasn’t George Washington a Deist?" This question comes from American educators and students alike. When asked from whence comes their belief, one is referred to modern-day history books, textbooks and/or curricula, which boldly affirm that he was. This author, however, disagrees. The following evidence presented from original documents of American history, belie the fact:

According to Noah Webster’s definition in his original 1828 Dictionary, a "deist" was:

One who believes in the existence of a God, but denies revealed religion; one who
professes no form of religion, but follows the light of nature and reason, as his only
guides in doctrine and practice; a free-thinker.

In 1909, the Reverend W. Herbert Burk formulated plans for the Washington Memorial Chapel and Carillon at Valley Forge. Of the stained-glass window, Peace at Eventide, Dr. Burk writes:

To many people Washington’s Prayer at Valley Forge is the only one of which they know. They do not know that he was a man of prayer, that prayer was woven into the web and woof of the fabric of his life, that it is written in his private letters and public documents. here in the Washington Memorial Chapel one must catch the large vision of his worship, and see him in camp and city, at church and at home, in prayer. Robert Lewis, Washington’s nephew and private secretary, in 1827 told Mr. Sparks that he had accidentally witnessed his private devotions in his library, both morning and evening; that on these occasions he had seen him in a kneeling posture with a Bible open before him, and that he believed such to have been his daily practice! That must be our picture of him, the man in his closet, communing with his God. It was in that worship that he found peace at eventide, and that must be our last vision of him, kneeling in his library, the Bible spread out on the chair before him, and his hands clasped in prayer.

"The Daily Sacrifice"

George Washington’s hand-written prayers entitled The Daily Sacrifice constituted a morning and evening prayer for each day of the week. Following are some of these: l

George Washington’s Sunday Evening Prayer

O MOST GLORIOUS GOD, in Jesus Christ my merciful & loving father, I acknowledge and confess my 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 & 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 I am but dust, and remit my transgressions, negligences & ignorances, and cover them all with the absolute obedience of thy dear Son, that those sacrifices which I have offered may be accepted by thee, in a for the sacrifice Jesus Christ offered upon the cross for me; for his sake, ease me of the burden of my sins, and give me grace that by the call of the Gospel I may rise from the slumber of sin unto newness of life. Let me live according to those holy rules which thou has this day prescribed in thy holy word; make me to know what is acceptable in thy sight and therein to delight. Open the eyes of my understanding, and help me thoroughly to examine myself concerning my knowledge, faith and repentance. Increase my faith, and direct me to the true object, Jesus Christ, the way, the truth and the life. Bless, O Lord, all the people of this land, from the highest to the lowest, particularly those whom thou hast appointed to rule over us in church & state. Continue thy goodness to me this night. These weak petitions I humbly implore thee to hear, accept and answer for the sake of thy Dear Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

George Washington’s Monday Morning Prayer

O ETERNAL AND EVERLASTING GOD, I presume to present myself this morning before thy Divine majesty, beseeching thee to accept of my humble and hearty thanks, that it hath pleased thy great goodness to keep and preserve me the night past from all the dangers poor mortals are subject to, and hast given me sweet and pleasant sleep, whereby I find my body refreshed and comforted for performing the duties of this day, in which I beseech thee to defend me from all perils of body & soul. Direct my thoughts, words and work, wash away my sins in the immaculate blood of the Lamb, and purge my heart by thy Holy Spirit, from the dross of my natural corruption, that I may with more freedom of mind and liberty of will serve thee, the ever living God, in righteousness and holiness this day, and all the days of my life. Increase my faith in the sweet promises of the gospel; give me repentance from dead works; pardon my wanderings, & direct my thoughts unto thyself, the God of my salvation. Teach me how to live in thy fear, labour in thy service, and ever to run in the ways of thy commandments. Make me always watchful over my heart, that neither the terror of conscience, the loathing of holy duties, the love of sin, nor an unwillingness to depart this life, may cast me into a spiritual slumber, but daily frame me more & more into the likeness of thy son Jesus Christ, that living in thy fear, and dying in thy favour, I may in thy appointed time attain the resurrection of the just unto eternal life. Bless my family, friends & kindred. Unite us all in praising & glorifying thee in all our works kbegun, continued and ended when we shall come to make our last account before thee blessed Saviour, who hath taught us thus to pray our Father, &c.

George Washington’s Wednesday Evening Prayer

HOLY AND ETERNAL LORD GOD who are the King of heaven, and the watchman of Israel, that never slumberest or sleepest, what shall we render unto thee for all thy benefits: because thou hast inclined thine ear unto me, therefore will I call on thee as long a I live, from the rising of the sun to the going down of the same let thy name be praised. Among the infinite riches of thy mercy towards me, I desire to render thanks & praise for thy merciful preservation of me this day, as well as all the days of my life; and for the many other blessings & mercies spiritual & temporal which thou hast bestowed on me, contrary to my deserving. All these thy mercies call on me to be thankful and my infirmities & wants call for a continuance of thy tender mercies: cleanse my soul, O Lord, I beseech thee, from whatever is offensive to thee, and hurtful to me, and give me what is convenient for me. What over me this night, and give me comfortable and sweet sleep to fit me for the service of the day following. Let my soul watch for the coming of the Lord Jesus; let my bed put me in mind of my grave, and my rising from there of my last resurrection; O heavenly Father, so frame this heart of mine, that I may ever delight to live according to thy will and command, in holiness and righteousness before thee all the days of my life. Let me remember, O Lord, the time will come when the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall arise and stand before the judgment seat, and give an account of whatever they have done in the body, and let me so prepare my soul, that I may do it with joy and not with grief. Bless the rulers and people of this land and forget not those who are under any affliction or oppression. Let thy favour be extended to all my relations, friends and all others who I ought to remember in my prayers and hear me I beseech thee for the sake of my dear Redeemer in whose most holy words, I farther pray, Our Father, &c.


On April 30, 1789, George Washington was sworn into office as first president with his left hand upon the Bible, opened to Genesis, between chapters 49 and 50. Genesis 49:22-25, upon which his hand lay, was Washington’s inaugural Scripture. He swore allegiance to the U.S. Constitution with his right hand upraised, the event taking place in Federal Hall, New York.

As first president of the United States, George Washington received letters of congratulations from fourteen churches. In response, he penned personal addresses to these churches. 2 Following are a number of them:

To the Directors of the Society of the United Brethren
For Propagating the Gospel among the Heathen

                                                                                                      July, 1789
Gentlemen:

I receive with satisfaction the congratulations of your society, and of the Brethren’s congregations in the United States of America. For you may be persuaded, that the approbation and good wishes of such a peaceable and virtuous community cannot be indifferent to me.

You will also be pleased to accept my thanks for the treatise* you presented; and be assured of my patronage in your laudable undertakings.

In proportion as the general government of the United States shall acquire strength by duration, it is probable they may have it in their power to extend a salutary influence to the aborigines in the extremities of their territory. In the mean time, it will be a desirable thing, for the protection of the Union, to co-operate, as far as the circumstances may conveniently admit, with the disinterested endeavours of your Society to civilize and christianize those of the wilderness.

Under these impressions, I pray Almighty God to have you always in his holy keeping.

                                                                                GEORGE WASHINGTON




*An Account of the Manner, in which the Protestant Church of the United Brethren, preach the Gospel and carry on their Mission among the Heathen. 

To the Bishops, Clergy and Laity of the Protestant Episcopal 
Church in the States of New York New Jersey, Pennsylvania, 
Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina, in General 
Convention Assembled.

                                                                                                   August 19th, 1789
Gentlemen:

I sincerely thank you for your affectionate congratulations on my election to the chief magistracy of the United States.

...The satisfaction arising from the indulgent opinion entertained by the American people of my conduct will, I trust, be some security for preventing me from doing anything, which might justly incur the forfeiture of that opinion. And the consideration, that human happiness and moral duty are inseparably connected, will always continue to prompt me to promote the progress of the former by inculcating the practice of the latter.

On this occasion, it would ill become me to conceal the joy I have felt in perceiving the fraternal affection, which appears to increase every day among the friends of genuine religion. It affords edifying prospects, indeed, to see Christians of different denominations dwell together in more charity, and conduct themselves in respect to each other with a more Christian-like spirit; than ever they have done in any former age, on in any other nation.

...I request, most reverend and respected Gentlemen, that you will accept my cordial thanks for your devout supplications to the Supreme Ruler of the Universe in behalf of me. May you, and the people you represent, be the happy subjects of the divine benedictions both here and hereafter.

                                                                                           GEORGE WASHINGTON



Francis Asbury’s Journals

The Reverend Francis Asbury, Pioneer in American Methodism, penned the following lines in his January 4, 1800 Journal entry, regarding Washington: 

Slow moved the Northern post on the eve of New Year’s day, and brought the heart-distressing information of the death of Washington, who departed this life December 14, 1799.

Washington, the calm, intrepid chief, the disinterested friend, first father and temporal saviour of his country under Divine protection and direction. A universal cloud sat upon the faces of the citizens of Charleston; the pulpits clothed in black - the bells muffled - the paraded soldiery - a public oration decreed to be delivered on Friday, 14th of this month - a marble statue to be placed in some proper situation. These were the expressions of sorrow, and these the marks of respect paid by his feeling fellow-citizens to the memory of this great man. I am disposed to lose sight of all but Washington: matchless man! At all times he acknowledged the providence of God, and never was he ashamed of his Redeemer: we believe he died, not fearing death. In his will he ordered the manumission of his slaves – a true son of liberty in all points.3



The above-cited original documents of American history, amply refute the revisionists’ indoctrination that George Washington was a "deist." They validate Washington’s belief in the existence of God, his adherence to revealed religion (the Scriptures) as the Word of God; and that he was a man of fervent prayer, unabashedly professing his faith in Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour, both in private and public life. What a testimony for the founder of the American Republic under God!
  1. Excerpted from, The Christian Heritage of our Nation History Curriculum - Landmarks 1997 by Catherine Millard. 
  2. Ibid.
  3. Excerpted from, The Christian Heritage of our Nation History Curriculum - Memorials 1998 by Catherine Millard. 

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