News Updates from History : George Washington, like the other Founding Fathers, felt uncomfortable with the thought of having his life honored in public. Rather from being a despot, he was the founding head of a new republic.
And yet on Monday, 292 years after his birth, the country will honor the first American president once more.
From being largely inconspicuous and occupied with work for Washington in the 1700s to the consumerism bonanza it has become today, the significance of Presidents Day has evolved tremendously. Some historians believe that the festival has become meaningless.

Author of “You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George of Washington,” historian Alexis Coe, said she saw Presidents Day similarly to the imposing monument that bears his name in Washington, D.C.
“Can you really point to anything that looks or sounds like Washington? It’s supposed to be about him,” she questioned. “The memorials for Jefferson and Lincoln are depicted as having limbs, noses, and words connected to them. He’s just a huge, granite point, too. He has been stripped of all distinguishing characteristics.

 

WASHINGTON’S BIRTHDAYS

On February 22, 1732, Washington was born in Virginia on Popes Creek Plantation, which is close to the Potomac River.
In actuality, however, he was born on February 11 according to the antiquated Julian calendar, which he lived under for his first twenty years. In 1752, the Gregorian calendar was introduced with an additional day, eleven, with the goal of more precisely recording the solar year.
On the other hand, according to Mountvernon.org, the website of the group that looks after his estate, Washington didn’t really celebrate his birthday. The records that have survived do not mention any observances at Mount Vernon, but his diary indicates that he was frequently working hard.

Coe remarked, “He would be at home with his family if he had his way.” It would be great to have some cherished nieces and nephews, as well as a friend named Marquis de Lafayette. as well as Martha’s recipe for a decadent cake. That’s all, though.
When Washington was president, most of his colleagues in government observed his birthday.
With the exception of his final birthday in office, Congress decided to observe a brief memorial break annually during his first two terms in office, according to Coe. By that time, Washington’s popularity had declined, partisanship was rife, and Thomas Jefferson and other initial Cabinet members had left.

“Working until his birthday was one way they showed their contempt for his Federalist principles, according to Coe.
It is noted by the Library of Congress that in 1782, Washington’s 50th birthday was celebrated with a party hosted by the Comte de Rochambeau, a French military leader.

AFTER HIS DEATH

Washington understood well his unique position as president’s first from the British throne. According to Seth Bruggeman, a history professor at Temple University in Philadelphia, he didn’t want to be treated like a king.
Nevertheless, he claimed that almost immediately following his death in 1799 at the age of 67, a market for Washington relics emerged, with collectors buying up ceramics and etchings depicting him as a celestial figure ascending to heaven.

Bruggeman, whose publications include “Here, George Washington Was Born: Memory, Material Culture, and the Public History of a National Monument,” stated that “even in that early moment, Americans kind of conflated consumerism with patriotic memory.”

MAKING IT OFFICIAL

According to the Congressional Research Service, Congress didn’t form a committee to plan national “parades, orations, and festivals” until 1832, the centennial of his birth.
Furthermore, his birthday wasn’t officially declared a legal holiday for District of Columbia federal employees until 1879.
Though it has been colloquially known as Presidents Day, the official name is Washington’s Birthday. Because President Lincoln was born on February 12, which is close by, there have also been arguments made in favor of honoring him.

The Library of Congress indicates that a select few states, Illinois included, celebrate Lincoln’s birthday as a public holiday. On Presidents Day, some people honor both Washington and Lincoln.
However, the day is still recognized as Washington’s Birthday at the federal level.

SHIFT TO CONSUMERISM

According to a 2004 article in the National Archives’ Prologue magazine, by the late 1960s, Washington’s Birthday was one of nine official holidays that happened on specified dates on different days of the week.
Congress decided to shift some of those to Mondays in response to worries about government employees’ absences when holidays were in the middle of the workweek. Legislators did, however, also point out some definite advantages for the economy, such as increases in retail sales and three-day weekend travel.
Presidents Day was shifted to the third Monday in February in 1971 by the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. In the Prologue, historian C. L. Arbelbide wrote that sales campaigns skyrocketed.

Washington and the other founding fathers, according to Bruggeman, “would have been deeply worried” about how commercial and private interests had hijacked the celebration.
According to Bruggeman, “they were very nervous about corporations.” It wasn’t as though they were forbidden. However, they viewed companies as little republics that might pose a challenge to the authority of the Republic.
As a fellow at the Washington-based think tank New America, Coe claimed that at this point, the day had lost any identifiable customs.

“There isn’t a time for introspection,” Coe declared. This kind of introspection “would probably be a good idea,” she continued, considering the general pessimism that exists nowadays regarding the office.

By newsparviews.com

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