December 24, 2004

Our goal is the creation and stewardship of the Washington Rochambeau Revolutionary Route, National Historic Trail that passes through Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia, and the elevation to a higher level the quality of heritage preservation all along the route. This newsletter tries to represent the point of view of the patriots who respected Washington and Rochambeau, the ones who, if alive, would be working with us to honor them.

Separating Church from State

It was in the 1513 book, The Prince, that Nicolo Machiavelli described the head of state as being the hand of God in the affairs of man. In effect Machiavelli reasoned that the power of church and state were most effective when combined. It did not take a stretch of the imagination to see that cultures that had Machiavellian values had also prospered greatly. Several Emperors of Rome had their Senators declare them to be gods.

Many people of Christian and other faiths also adopted the church-state idea, and it was not long before kings thought they were morally justified in oppressing, persecuting, and periodically allowing the slaughter of large congregations of people who thought differently about God and God’s purpose for men and kings. America first became a safe haven from religious persecution because colonization was such a high risk adventure that being sent to a colony was a form of punishment as well as imperial expansion. Australia and the colony of Georgia we set up specifically as penal colonies especially suited for crimes against the state and church.

It was not until the 25th of May, 1787 that a quorum was available Philadelphia for a meeting of the Constitutional Convention. The first act of the convention was to elect George Washington as the president of the convention. Washington did not write much about the convention, but instead tried to bring the other delegates to discover what could be viable. Such sources indicate his definite opinions about the convention’s compromises.

George Washington was such a popular figure that the public felt that ratification of the Constitution was the correct action. Certainly George Washington most closely embodied the beliefs of the American people when the Constitution was written. There is considerable evidence that the Founding Fathers wanted the separation of church and state because Americans had first hand experience with the organized state run churches that oppressed and persecuted people of different persuasions. But there is no evidence that the Founding Fathers ever wanted or would have wanted the separation of God from state. Consider this first Thanksgiving proclamation of George Washington in 1789, at the request of a joint committee of the first American Congress.

“Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor — and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be — That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks — for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation — for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the tranquility [sic], union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed — for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted — for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us. And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions — to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually — to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed — to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn [sic] kindness onto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord — To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease [sic] of science among them and us — and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

George Washington

While there were Thanksgiving observances in America before Washington’s proclamation, this was the first to be designated by the new national government. After their first harvest, the colonists of the Plymouth Plantation held a celebration of feasting in the fall of 1621. Indian chiefs Massassoit, Squanto and Samoset with ninety of their men joined in the three-day event. The first Thanksgiving proclamation was for June 29, 1671 at Charlestown, Massachusetts and recorded by the town’s governing council. During the 1700s, it was common practice for individual colonies to observe days of thanksgiving during each year. Often it was a day set aside for prayer and fasting, not a day marked by feasting. There was even a Thanksgiving Day celebration held in December of 1777 by the colonies nationwide, commemorating the surrender of British General Burgoyne at Saratoga.

Later, on October 3, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation calling for the observance of Thanksgiving each November as a national holiday. Rather than ban God from schools, it was not until the time of the American Civil War that secular reading and spelling books replaced the Bible as the school books in many of the one room school houses. While it is clear that the Founding Fathers had predominantly Christian values, one can see just from the conspicuous absence of the name Christ, that they did not impose those values on anyone. But contrary to some modern political movements, our Founding Fathers showed no intention of separating God from state, schools, marriage, or anything else that mattered. While atheism was adopted as the state belief system in Communist countries, atheism was only one of many beliefs practiced in early America. In fact, diversity in belief systems including deists, atheists, Jews, Hindus and others was just as great then as it is now. Consider the many small pacifist sects, collectives, and other new belief systems that sprung up everywhere in America and especially in Pennsylvania and western New York.

A Christmas Custom
The Puritans who came to America were most inclined toward prayer, fasting, and thanksgiving to God. But they also ran the rum-sugar-slave trade triangle. Many religious sects frowned upon celebration. But the Cavaliers also settled in the middle and southern colonies, and they along with other immigrants preferred celebrations and feasts. Christmas to most early Americans came to mean hunting, and then feasting on meat pies. For as long as they burned, Yule logs meant festive drinking, conviviality, and freedom from farm work. America’s traditional Christmases, with Christmas trees, and church choirs were still decades away.

Eggnog is a descendant of a hot British drink of the elite, called posset, which consisted of eggs, milk, and ale or wine, ingredients then too costly for the average man. But it was the Colonists whose access to dairy products, local liquor stills, and affordable Caribbean rum, changed the eggnog recipe forever and made it one of the most popular of American Christmas drinks. It was far more affordable than the heavily taxed brandy or other European spirits that it replaced at our ancestors’ holiday revels. The first recorded mention of eggnog in Colonial America points to its creation in Philadelphia sometime before 1796

Washington’s Recipe for Eggnog:
One quart cream
One quart milk
One dozen tbsp. sugar or Sucanat (1/2 c.)
One pint brandy (2 c.)
1/2 pint rye whiskey (1 c.)
1/2 pint Jamaica rum (1 c.)
1/4 pint sherry (1/2 c.)

Mix liquor first, then separate yolks and whites of eggs, add sugar to beaten yolks, and mix well. Add liquor to mixture drop by drop at first, slowly beating. Add milk and cream, slowly beating. Beat whites of eggs until stiff and fold slowly into mixture. Let set in cool place for several days. Taste frequently.

Sucanat was dehydrated sugar cane with little to no processing; an excellent source of iron, calcium, vitamin B6, potassium and chromium. Like many of our ancestors who handed down the family recipes, Washington neglected to mention one important detail. While he was clear on the exact amount of brandy, whiskey, rum, and sherry to be used, he failed to include the number of eggs. So for that part it has been suggested using 8 eggs, separated.

The National Park Service has requested your input on how the W3R trail should best be managed. See their latest newsletter: http://www.nps.gov/boso/w-r/files/W-RNewsletter2.pdf

Our newsletters 51 and 52 addressed this important matter.