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Publius / Feb. 17, 2020

Washington's Birthday vs. Presidents' Day

To call the day "Presidents' Day" diminishes George Washington.

In some circles, today is observed as “Presidents’ Day,” jointly honoring Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln (some even extend the commemoration to all presidents), but it is still officially recognized as the anniversary of Washington’s birth. That is how we mark the date in our humble shop. (Washington’s actual birthday is Feb. 22.)

Matthew Spalding, a Heritage Foundation scholar, notes the history: “Although it was celebrated as early as 1778, and by the early 19th Century was second only to the Fourth of July as a patriotic holiday, Congress did not officially recognize Washington’s Birthday as a national holiday until 1870. The Monday Holiday Law in 1968 — applied to executive branch departments and agencies by Richard Nixon’s Executive Order 11582 in 1971 — moved the holiday from February 22 to the third Monday in February. Section 6103 of Title 5, United States Code, currently designates that legal federal holiday as ‘Washington’s Birthday.’ Contrary to popular opinion, no action by Congress or order by any President has changed ‘Washington’s Birthday’ to ‘Presidents’ Day.‘”

Furthermore, to call the day “Presidents’ Day” not only diminishes George Washington but elevates presidents like Barack Obama. Whereas Washington sought to keep his oath to “support and defend” the Constitution, Obama undermined it at every turn.

It’s funny that Donald Trump has helped leftists discover that principle. According to some measures, Democrats by a vast margin thought power should be primarily vested in the central government. That was when Hillary Clinton was a “lock” to win the White House. With Trump as president, however, Democrats have suddenly found their inner Federalist.

The Heritage Foundation’s Carson Holloway writes, “George Washington stands out, even among men of the caliber of the founders, for the greatness of his character. … Specifically, [it was] his self-command, which prevented his ever taking any political step on impulse, without carefully weighing its consequences for the country. … George Washington had trained himself from young manhood in the discipline of his passions. They were always well-governed, and this made him uniquely qualified to govern others, even when compared with the intellectual luminaries of that intellectually luminous generation.”

National Review’s Kevin Williamson notes, “When Washington said he intended to return to his farm rather than establish himself as a lord in the new dominion he had wrested away from the British Empire, King George famously declared: ‘If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world.’”

Washington kept his promise. And it’s certainly true that not many presidents or presidential candidates have measured up to Washington’s character.

So with that in mind, and in honor of and with due respect for our first and greatest president — and arguably our nation’s most outstanding Patriot — we include two quotes from George Washington that best embody his dedication to Liberty and God. The first from his First Inaugural Address, April 30, 1789, and the second from his Farewell Address, September 19, 1796.

“The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the republican model of government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally, staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American People.”

“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.”

These quotes aptly sum up The Patriot Post’s mission and purpose.

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