Impossible to Run a Country Without God and the Bible George Washington

George Washington God and the Bible
Similar to our piece on Albert Einstein's fake quote, George Washington's high esteem amongst Americans seems to be a contributing factor in the sheer volume of fake quotes attributed to him. One such famous one that seems to get ignition periodically is the claim that Washington, a fierce and devoted secularist, once said that it is "impossible to run a country without God and the Bible." We'll discuss motives, facts and related issues regarding this quote on this page.

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This famous quote is claimed to have been spoken by American’s first president, George Washington. The full quote, in context, appears below:

It is impossible to run a country without god and the bible.

No. George Washington did not say that it’s impossible to run a country without God and the bible.

Citation 1:

Politifact

Citation 2:

Mount Vernon

Per citation 3, many claim that George Washington said the quote in his farewell address from office. Of course, he said no such thing.

The quote is claimed to have come when he was departing office which would have been September 19th, 1796. The day that George Washington actually delivered his farewell address. Even though George Washington never said the quote, we’ll note that this would’ve taken place just a decade after the British surrender and recognition of the United States as a country. Additionally, Washington, at this time, would’ve been in the second to last year of his presidency (second term) as first President of the United States. 

If Washington never said it, why do people claim he did?

This quote appears as one of the key examples of fake quotes in a book by Paul F. Boller and, Jr. and John George titled They Never Said It: A Book of Fake Quotes, Misquotes, and Misleading Attributions. The book, which was one of the inspirations for this exact website, shows just how much scholarship it takes to be able to claim that someone did not say something. Indeed, the misattribution of quotes (or completely fabricated quotes) do a great disservice to the pursuit of historical truth.

This particular quote in question, however, is more relevant in a time of Facebook and social media where the meme of the quote has gone viral multiple times.

George Washington would seem to be a good target for fake quotes. Not only does was he the countries first president (and often idealized as the founder of the country) but in the United States secular institutions frequently clash with  religious ones over the separation of Church and State,

As religious organizations have seen their power eroded over recent decades, religious organizations have attempted to rally together around the views of the founding fathers.

What did George Washington actually say?

Though George Washington did not say that one needs either God or the Bible in order to run the country, he did have quite a bit to say about the relationship between religion and politics, and faith and personal views were indeed compelx. In The Ways of Providence author Frank Grizzard argues that Washington attended religioius services sparingly but did show his support for the church. In the years during the countries founding, including the revolutionary war, Washington was a member of Truro Parish Vestry, where he served as a churchwarden and was active until 1774 when political (and revolutionary) matters required his constant attention. 

 

I’ve been left in the land of the living thanks to..the miraculous care of Providence, that protected me beyond all human expectation.

George Washington, 1755

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