Eight Reasons It Should Be George Washington’s Birthday, Not Presidents Day
There was once a time when men were mere men, and great men were more than that. In those days singling out a president for commemoration honored his noble achievements (and provided paid holidays for government employees). That’s why we used to celebrate George Washington’s birthday. And, inexplicably, Abraham Lincoln’s too.
Then in a stroke of numbskullery, elected federal wise men imposed a great leveling known as “Presidents Day.”
Presidents Day is an egalitarian victory over meritocracy.
It effectively lowered Washington to Lincoln’s pitiful status, and in the minds of many, lumped both in with every nit wit and self-serving prevaricator who ever rose, however briefly or ignobly, to the rank of Commander in Chief.
For about five decades, the nation has commemorated “Presidents Day” in place of Washington’s birthday, despite the fact the law still officially recognizes the latter. Despite legal niceties, the dictionary doubles down on the error: “the third Monday in February observed as a legal holiday in most of the states of the U.S. in honor of the birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.”
The same egalitarian tendencies previously gave us socialism, communism and progressivism, all odious enthusiasms that first attracted self-proclaimed intellectuals, then wider followings. We have reached the wider-following stage.
The general public embraces this merged holiday, as do the media. Witness “Presidents’ Day Sale!” advertisements almost always showing pictures of Washington and Lincoln. Once it’s incorporated into advertising, it definitely has arrived.
This is a huge victory for egalitarians.
But here is why the egalitarian “Presidents’ Day” is inherently inferior to the celebration of Washington’s birthday.
First, it equates Washington, the father of our country, with Lincoln, the father of Big Government. Washington liberated colonists from tyrannical rule. Lincoln homogenized America by devastating states’ rights and replacing it with rule from Washington, D.C., a different variety of tyranny, but tyranny nonetheless.
Second, President’s Day implies equal veneration for men who were quite opposite. While it is true that Washington owned slaves, there is scant if any evidence he regarded them as inferior human beings. Lincoln did. Lincoln was an unashamed, lifelong white supremist.
“I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races,” Lincoln said two years before being elected president. “ . . . . I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people . . .”
Washington refused to sell his slaves for fear of the damage it would inflict on their family members to be separated. Washington’s will provided for the manumission (freeing) of his slaves. Lincoln’s famous proclamation was a political ploy that pretended to free slaves. It applied only to the South where he had no authority, and explicitly exempted northern and border states where he did have authority. After Lincoln’s death, it took an act of Congress to actually free slaves.
Third, President’s Day equates Washington’s contributions and Lincoln’s. Washington was a reluctant warrior who answered the call to serve the new nation. Nevertheless, he braved the genuine threat of hanging for treason to liberate colonists from tyrannical King George. Lincoln was the eager instigator of a Civil War to deny Southern states their right to leave the Union, a right everyone, including Lincoln, had long accepted as a given. Lincoln was in favor of secession before he was against it.
Fourth, Washington willingly risked his own life, reputation and personal fortune to go to war. Lincoln risked the lives of other Americans without so much as asking them their preference. Clearly, vast numbers of them opposed the War of Northern Aggression, as southerners properly viewed it. Even in the North, Lincoln’s war was so despised he resorted to jailing newspaper publishers and lawmakers to silence his opposition.
Fifth, Washington was motivated in part to end the despotic taxation of the sale of goods without representation imposed by a distant legislature and monarch. Lincoln was motivated in part to impose the most onerous of taxes, the income tax, to finance his war. The income tax is an economically punitive levy that creates disincentive to work for profit, which is the backbone of economic freedom. Colonists could at least avoid King George’s tax by not buying tea. To avoid Lincoln’s tax, one had to avoid earning a living.
Sixth, Washington was unanimously chosen by electors of the Electoral College, then four years later unanimously reelected. Lincoln was first elected with 59% of the electoral vote. Lincoln improved to 90% of Electoral College votes in his 1864 reelection, but only because Southern states still at war with the North didn’t vote in that election.
Seventh, Washington’s heart ached for his slaves, because he deemed the institution of slavery “very repugnantly to my own feelings.” Lincoln infamously said, “I say that we must not interfere with the institution of slavery . . . because the constitution forbids it, and the general welfare does not require us to do so.”
Eighth, Washington earned his reputation of “first in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen.” But Lincoln was the first and only president to order Americans to kill Americans by the hundreds of thousands, breaking the peace and earning the enmity of at least half of his countrymen.
Neither president was faultless. But they were far from equal. Lumping them together in “Presidents Day” undeservedly tarnishes Washington’s name by including him in the same breath with Lincoln, while undeservedly exalting Lincoln by suggesting an equivalence with Washington.
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