by Franklin Steiner - [ 1878 - 1968 ]
Washington: Born, February 22, 1732. Died, December 14, 1799,
President, April 30, 1779 -- March 4, 1797.
That much myth and legend is to be found in most of the past biographies of George Washington is admitted by practically all conscientious and discriminating writer's of today. That the "Father of His Country" has been delineated more in the character of a god or a superman than as a real human being is a fact now known to all who think as well as read. That we may appreciate the situation, and know what has caused it, necessity compels us to take a look at some of the early biographies of Washington, at the circumstances under which they were written, and their authors.
The,first 'Life of Washington,' and the one that has had the largest circulation, was written by the Rev. Mason L. Weems, and first published in 1800. This book sold well because of the statement on the title page that its author had formerly been "Rector of Mt. Vernon Parish." It passed through 80 editions, and more people have known Washington and known him exclusively by means of it, than through any other book. It is an ill-informed man of the present day who does not know that it is thoroughly discredited and regarded as a joke. Houoghton, Mifflin &,Co., the Boston publishers, have issued 'The literature of American History,' a practical anthology upon the subject. This states that if the "f" had been left out of the "life," making the title of Weems' book, 'The Lie of Washington,' its real character would be aptly described. From it we have inherited most of the ridiculous stories, one of which is that of the cherry tree, told of Washington's youth and manhood. In 1927, a new edition was published as a literary curiosity. The editor, Mark Van Doren, speaks of its merits as follows:
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