There is a quaint story about President George Washington which has been taught to schoolchildren for many years.
As a boy of six, Washington received a new hatchet. He went around cutting everything he could find with it, including his father’s prized cherry tree. The tree died and his father, angered, went through the house demanding to know who had done it. George confessed and their conversation supposedly went something like this…
“George,do you know who has killed my beautiful little cherry tree yonder in the garden? I would not have taken five guineas for it!”
“I cannot tell a lie, father, you know I cannot tell a lie! I did cut it with my little hatchet.”
“My son, that you should not be afraid to tell the truth is more to me than a thousand trees! Yes – though they were blossomed with silver and had leaves of the purest gold!”
This story has been used to illustrate Washington’s honesty and moral uprightness for over two hundred years.
Unfortunately, it is utterly false!
It was created by a person named Mason Locke Weems and included in his “A History of the Life and Death, Virtues and Exploit, of General George Washington” which was first published in 1800.
Weems felt that earlier biographies of Washington were rather dull, so he wanted to make his more interesting by humanizing Washington while holding him up as a man of extraordinary character. Weems may have also wanted to make Washington seem more religious than he actually was.
False though it was, Americans loved the story and it found its way into numerous books, publications, and illustrations. Many of those who know it is false believe that “it should be true” because it is such a good, believable story about the life of our first President.
So people are happy to believe comfortable stories and in things they know not to be true because it sounds good, rather than boring old facts??? HMM? How do we know what to believe or not to believe in a society that has been making it acceptable to lie for hundreds of generations!