Exhibit portrays Washington’s deep faith

| March 3, 2011 | 0 Comments

Caron Cadou talked with Catholic Spirit News Editor Pat Norby on Feb. 16, while overseeing the installment of the George Washington exhibit currently on display at the Minnesota History Center. Cadou is vice president for collections at George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens in Virginia.

Why do you think people in Min­nesota are interested in George Washington and this exhibit?

This photograph shows one of three life-size wax models in the George Washington exhibit at the Minnesota History Center. Minnesota History Center

He’s sort of that farm boy who made good and I think some in Minnesota can relate to that and others can relate to his interest in America and its freedoms.

Was Washington a religious person? How did that influence his life?
George Wash­ing­ton is shown as a man of faith, who is guided by principles and an understanding of a greater world, a higher being that helped him to form ideas of what is truly right and what not only he, but a young country must do, to uphold certain moral standards.

He was raised in the Anglican faith. He had a Christian wedding when he married Martha Wash­ing­ton in 1759 and he participated as an Anglican throughout his life.

I would think that George Wash­ing­ton’s religious beliefs would have played a role in the moral conflict he felt about slavery and why he was such a troubled slave holder. He’s the only Founding Father to free his slaves. . . . We can’t let George Washington completely off the hook [however] because he could have found the means to free Martha Washington’s slaves [whom he did not free].

Washington did not wear his religion on his sleeve, which I think was appropriate, because he wanted America to be a place of religious freedom for all.

Rumors say he converted to Catholicism on his deathbed. Is that true?
I have not heard that Washington converted to Catholicism on his deathbed.

Washington was influenced by his religious faith as something that grounded him and served as a means of strength and hope. He referred frequently to divine providence — that America is in the hand of divine providence, that some force is at work that is helping guide the Founding Fathers in a establishing a democratic government based on equality.

What myths about George Wash­ing­ton are true and what are false?
George Washington never threw a silver dollar across the Potomac River. He never cut down a cherry tree and said, “Father I cannot tell a lie.” And he did not have wooden teeth. These were all myths perpetrated by a well-meaning biographer of Washington by the name of Parson Weems.

One myth that is true — George Washington was the largest distiller of whiskey in the United States. In the last year before his death, he distilled more than 11,000 gallons. It was one of his entrepreneurial activities that was very profitable.

The exhibit includes replicas of the distillery and the grounds at Mount Vernon, a church pew, paintings, life-size statues of Washington at different stages in life and many artifacts, including a set of his teeth. For more about exhibit times and cost, visit http://www.minnesotahistorycenter.org.

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Category: Arts and Culture