Posted by Bob on November 30, 2000
In Reply to: George Washinghton :I can´t tell a lie posted by ESC on November 30, 2000
: : : George Washington: I can´t tell a lie
: : : What is the origin of this saying and how is it used in the US.
: : : (Does this accuse someone lying? How do children react on this)
: : : Thanks in advance
: : : Max
: : That story was a work of fiction. I'll have to get back to you on who wrote it and when.
: Q: Did George Washington chop down a cherry tree?
: A: Probably not. The story was likely invented by a man named Mason Weems shortly after Washington's death. Ironically, the story was intended to show how honest Washington was: George confesses to his father saying, "I cannot tell a lie."
: From http://www.virginia.edu/gwpapers/faq/index.html%20More%20about%20the%20fable%20is%20at%20http://www.virginia.edu/gwpapers/documents/weems/index.html
Parson Weems was a man bent on the Moral Uplift of Children, so he wrote a fictionalized biography of America's first president, including a number of fanciful stories intended to polish George's reputation. He succeeded so well that the book was a staple of American education fro much of the 19th century, and the legends took root. Today, in a more skeptical age, we tend to dismiss all legends and reduce all historical figures to their all-too-human ordinariness. (The story is dying out, in other words. I think it's only older Americans who recall the "I cannot tell a lie" story. The ironic thing is, George doesn't need the help. Although some historians would disagree, he's a pretty admirable character in many ways. For example, in how many revolutions, before or since, has a leader won two elections, then at the peak of his popularity, refuse to run for a third term, voluntarily stepping aside?