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George Washington's Inauguration & America's Israelite Destiny
Dr. Richard Griffith


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George Washington's Inauguration & America's Israelite Destiny
by Dr. Richard Griffith

A team of researchers from Arizona State University and the University of Pittsburgh recently conducted an amazing piece of historical detective work by recreating the appearance of George Washington.  "Research for the project involved collecting 200-year-old artifacts of Washington's, including his dentures and his original breeches, waistcoat and stockings" according to Skyler Tulchin.  Busts of Washington and other artifacts were also laser scanned and the data entered "into a computer to create molds of wax for Washington's head and dimensions for Washington's body." 1
Life-sized models of Washington at various stages of his life were created and are now on display at Washington's Mount Vernon estate.2  The Washington that emerges from the mist of time is physically powerful, handsome and charismatic.  These models reflect the consensus of Washington's time that he was a captivating and powerful leader of men (see model of Washington as the Commanding General of the Continental army, displayed below).3
Another life-sized 3-D model depicts Washington standing in front of a Bible at his first inaugural (see below). This incredibly life-like depiction should reinvigorate interest not only in Washington's heroic life, but also in the pivotal and prophetic events that occurred at that first inauguration, which should send chills of excitement and awe down the spines of all those who take the promises of the Bible seriously.

The date is February 4, 1789. Washington has just been elected the first president of the United States by sixty-nine votes cast by electors assembled in New York City, the location of the temporary capital. In April he leaves his Mount Vernon estate for the inaugural ceremony to be held in New York City, after receiving word the count has been validated and he is indeed the first president of the new republic. Along the route he is greeted with much fanfare. Historian James A. Crutchfield recounts a moment at Trenton, New Jersey, the scene of one of Washington's greatest victories: "the daughter of famed artist Charles Wilson Peale bestowed a crown of laurel leaves upon his head as he passed beneath a triumphal arch, while thirteen young women, decked out in flowing white gowns, serenaded him with the song 'Welcome, Mighty Chief, Once More.'"4
On April 23, 1789, Washington arrives in New York City and for the next six days is feted throughout the city with "awe-inspiring military escorts, fifteen-gun naval salutes, nightly banquets, adoring crowds, and even a spectacular fireworks display" according to Eliza Morton.  At noon on April 30, 1789, Washington steps out onto the second floor balcony of the Federal Building.  Paul Gutjahr notes, "Physically and symbolically at the center of this momentous event stood 'a large and elegant bible' that 'lay on a table, with a rich covering of red velvet; and upon this, on a crimson velvet cushion'.  The centrality of the bible is all the more striking when one realizes that the Constitution does not require a bible for administering the oath of office."5  The Bible is a 1767 King James Version quickly provided for the ceremony by Jacob Morton from a local Masonic lodge after it dawned on the organizers that despite their extensive preparations they were without a Bible.6
Eliza Morton recounts what happened next: "Chancellor Livingston read the form of oath prescribed by the constitution; Washington repeated it, resting his hand upon the Bible.  Mr Otis, the secretary of the Senate, then took the Bible to raise it to the lips of Washington who stooped to kiss the book."  Jacob Morton then stepped forward to mark the pages Washington had kissed.  Although many historians often relate such details of the kissing of the Bible and the marking of the pages, they seem to miss their significance.  Paul Gutjahr argues this event is best understood in the light of the history of oath taking and the use of random passages from sacred books as signs from the gods.  It was the practice of the Greeks, for example, to randomly open the Iliad and to view the passage on the page as a message from the gods. This practice was continued in the English speaking world with the Bible. Thus, the pages that Washington kissed in light of this tradition should be seen as not mere happenstance, but invested with great meaning-- a prophetic sign possibly from the God of the Bible.    
The pages of the Bible that Washington kissed were Genesis 49 and 50.  Genesis 49 recounts incredible prophecies regarding the destiny of the Twelve Tribes of Israel in the last days that Jacob made to his sons as they gathered around him while he was dying.   Chapter 50 recounts Joseph's mourning for his father, the family's stay in Egypt and at the end of the chapter the dying Joseph's promise to his brothers that God will lead them, Israel, to inherit a new land. 7
1 Lombardi's article "Taking the Measure of Washington... Once More" has additional information on the research team and process:
2 For a description of various educational displays at the Mount Vernon estate featuring these life size models please see the following website:
3 PBS has a fine program and a website "Rediscovering Washington" with descriptions of how Washington's contemporaries viewed him. Please see the website and the section
"The Physical Characteristics of Washington."
4 Crutchfield (2005), page 152.
5 Gutjahr (1999), page 39.
6 For more on the fascinating history of this bible please see  Please also see "George Washington Bible Rescued After World Trade Center Tragedy."

7 Gutjahr (1999), pages 39-40.  New historical research suggests Washington had an intimate relationship and deep respect for the God of the Bible (see "Divining  Inside Washington's God" from 
Particularly noteworthy is Michael and Jana Novak's response to the question "Who is Washington's God?"  Their answer: "The Great God Jehovah who led the people of Israel long ago, the same benevolent Providence that led the way through many dark times to the independence of the United States. That is the God Washington described in his letter to the Synagogue in Savannah, after the war."
Crutchfield, J. A.  (2005). George Washington: First in War First in Peace. New York: A Tom Doherty Associates Book.
George Washington's Inaugural Bible
Gutjahr, P. C. (1999). An American Bible: A History of the Good Book in the United States, 1777-1880. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Lombardi, M. J. (Summer, 2005). Taking the Measure of Washington... Once More. Retrieved March 11, 2008, from
Mount Vernon Estate (
National Review (February 20, 2006). Divining W Inside Washington's God.
Retrieved March 11, 2008, from
Quincy, E. S. M. (1861). Memoir of the life of Eliza S. M. Quincy.
In An American Bible: A History of the Good Book in the United States, 1777-1880.
Stanford: Stanford  University Press.
Rediscovering Washington (
Savini, T. (November 2001).  George Washington Bible Rescued After World Trade Center Tragedy. Retrieved March 11, 2008 from
Tulchin, S. (October 20, 2005). Washington may have been a presidential heartthrob. Retrieved March 11, 2008, from


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