22 February 2008

"Our Worshipful Brother, George Washington"

George Washington (1731/2-1799) was born 11 February 1731 on his father's plantation near present-day Colonial Beach, Virginia.

In 1750, the British Parliament passed the Calendar (New Style) Act 1750 ("An Act for regulating the Commencement of the Year, and for correcting the Calendar now in use."). This act changed the first day of the year from 25 March to 1 January, effective the day after 31 December 1751.* It also officially ended the United Kingdom's use of the Julian ("Old Style") calendar, switching the country over to the Gregorian ("New Style") calendar; this change was to take place in September of 1752. By this time the difference between the two calendars was eleven days, the Julian calendar having fallen behind, so the day after Wednesday, 2 September 1752, would be Thursday, 14 September. The combination of these two changes - the day on which the year begins and the calendar in use - mean that the date of Washington's birth changed from 11 Feb 1731 (OS) to the familiar 22 Feb 1732 (NS).

Washington, of course, became the first President of the United States, and in 1880 his birthday - 22 February - became a federal holiday in the District of Columbia. This was expanded in 1885 to include all federal offices nationwide. It continued to be celebrated on 22 February until after the Uniform Monday Holiday Act (Public Law 90-363) was passed in 1968. Said act became effective on 1 Jan 1971, and affected several holidays:
Washington's Birthday (traditionally 22 Feb) would be celebrated on the third Monday in February.

Memorial Day (30 May) would be celebrated on the last Monday in May.

Veterans Day (11 Nov) would be celebrated on the fourth Monday in October.**

Additionally, a new federal holiday, Columbus Day (formerly observed on 12 October in some states), would be celebrated on the second Monday in October.

And thus, while the holiday was observed on Monday, the actual 276th birthday of George Washington is today. Happy birthday, George!

On a slightly different subject, Washington was a member of the Freemasons. Most poems I've seen about him refer to his status as President, or as General; here's one I found which views him as a Mason:

Author Unknown

Masonry has many claims
Including presidential names,
And, foremost, when all's said and done
Would have to be George Washington.

He led our troops in many fights
He helped compose our 'Bill of Rights,"
That all his people might be free
Enjoying life and liberty.

Americans still say today
"We're lucky that we live this way,"
For many, how surprised they'd be
To learn it sprang from Masonry.

For Washington, the Masons knew
Masonic principles were true,
And Masons know around this Earth
They came to be before his birth.

With other Masons, so conceived
He simply wrote what he believed,
Those thoughts and words that set us free
Are not unique in Masonry.

But not too many people know
The liberties they treasure so,
Were put into our Constitution
By Masons from the Revolution.

George Washington is praised by all
For answering his country's call,
For being president so wise,
For never telling any lies.

To each American, he's a part
Of what we treasure in our heart,
To love him not, would be like treason
Though each may have his own good reason.

But Masons o'er the years have cared
In knowing principles we've shared,
It's Washington we praise tonigh
He truly shared Masonic Light.

* Which otherwise, as the day following 31 Dec 1751, would have been 1 Jan 1751; with the change, it would be 1 Jan 1752.

** It was changed back to the traditional date in 1978.

Click on the "Poetry Friday" button at left for this week's round-up, which is hosted by Kelly at Big A little a. (Susan, of Susan Writes, has done a round-up of previous round-ups here.)

No comments: