George Washington had a blueprint for making America great. Born February 22, 1732, this most beloved of America’s Founders and her first president, laid out this blueprint in his many speeches and writings.
Washington’s blueprint was tied to his faith in God and his deep respect for the Bible. He believed that if America honored God and did what was right, she would be blessed. If, however, she followed falsehood and vanity she would suffer calamity and defeat by her enemies.
Make Jesus Christ Your Standard
Washington expressed components of this blueprint in a meeting with Delaware Indian chiefs in 1779. The chiefs had requested that their youth be trained in American schools and Washington commended them for their request. He assured them that Congress would look upon their youth “as their own children” and then said,
"You do well to wish to learn our arts and our ways of life and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ. These will make you a greater and happier people than you are. Congress will do everything they can to assist you in this wise intention."
Washington’s words reveal his commitment to Jesus Christ and his deep conviction that only Christianity provides a belief system that can serve as a basis for social stability and individual happiness. It also shows that he saw no conflict with Congress assisting in the promotion of Christianity among this American Indian tribe.
His words also reveal that he was not a multiculturalist in the modern sense, nor would he promote a religious pluralism. While tolerant and respectful of those of differing beliefs, he was firm in his belief that only Biblical Christianity—the religion of Jesus Christ--provided the moral and philosophical underpinnings for a prosperous and happy nation.
This Christian way of thinking was instilled in him from the time he was a child by his mother who was a devout believer. Just before he left home as a young soldier, she admonished him, “Remember that God is our only sure trust.” She also exhorted, “My son, neglect not the duty of secret prayer” (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 136).
Washington would also have been impacted by the Great Awakening, which was at its peak while he was a lad. That the Awakening had a particular impact on his home state of Virginia was confirmed by Charles Hodge who wrote, “In no part of our country was the revival more interesting, and in very few was it so pure as in Virginia” (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 136).
Guided by Faith
There is no question that Washington’s faith guided him throughout his life and career. It provided the blueprint that he followed in his journey from a wilderness surveyor to commander-in-chief of the colonial army to the first president of the new nation.
For example, as commander-in-chief of the colonial army, Washington issued an order that each day was to begin with prayer led by the officers of each unit. He also ordered that, unless their duties required them to be elsewhere, every soldier was to observe, “a punctual attendance of Divine services, to implore the blessing of heaven upon the means used for our safety and public defense” (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 128). He also issued an order forbidding drunkenness and all forms of profanity.
This was not a matter of imposing his beliefs on others; it was a matter of being consistent with his own beliefs and doing what he knew was right in the sight of God and good for the people. It was a matter of following his blueprint for victory and peace in the new nation.
After the surrender of General Cornwallis and the end of the War for Independence, Washington submitted his resignation to Congress and then penned a letter to governors of the various states. This letter expressed his blueprint for American greatness, which included an exhortation that they model their lives after Jesus Christ. He wrote,
"I now make it my earnest prayer that God would have you, and the State over which you preside, in his holy protection; that he would incline the hearts of the citizens . . . to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another . . . and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind, which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without a humble imitation of His example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy nation" (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 134).
The Necessary Moral Underpinnings
Washington began the tradition of presidents taking the oath of office with their hand placed on a Bible. For Washington, this was no mere political formality, for he had once declared, “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible” (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 137).
By placing his hand on the Bible alone, and not some other religious text, Washington was affirming his belief that Christianity alone offers a belief system of truth necessary for national stability and individual happiness. This was an important part of his blueprint for America’s greatness.
He affirmed this in his Farewell Address after serving two terms as America’s first president. In this address, Washington warned the young nation to guard the blueprint for America’s greatness. He said,
"Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle" (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 169-70).
When the Founders use the word “religion” they are referring to Christianity. Note that Washington says that religion [Christianity] and morality are “indispensable supports” for political prosperity and the “great pillars of human happiness.” Without these, America could never be great.
Washington and the other Founders have been accused of having a utilitarian approach to Christianity, i.e., that they embraced Christianity because it works in life. Indeed, Washington believed the Bible to contain the blueprint for national prosperity and individual happiness, and this is why he exhorted the new nation,
“The propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the external rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained "(Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 174).
Trust God. Make Jesus Christ your role model. Respect the Bible. Follow Christian morality. This was George Washington’s blueprint for making America great. This is the blueprint that will make her great again.
This article is derived from Dr. Eddie Hyatt’s book, Pilgrims and Patriots, available from Amazon and from his website at www.eddiehyatt.com