Fact or fiction?
When the two are combined, the reader could have what one might call faction – neither one nor the other.
Just the facts, please. There are enough facts without having to manufacture cute little fictional stories about our American heroes. We don’t need to add more to the myths abounding in our land today.
When the enemy of truth would seek to deceive, he can do it from two extremes:
i) outright lies by godless historians, or
ii) the Church offering fictionalized attempts to entertain a T.V.– oriented
generation; promoting myths or quoting without credible sources.
Students caught between these two extremes are tempted to discard both versions, as they can’t believe either one.
Exploring American History textbook
One such textbook is entitled Exploring American History, by Michael J. McHugh and D.H. Montgomery, published by the Christian Liberty Press, Arlington Heights, Illinois in 1992. In their Introduction to this book, the writers claim:
i)”…to present accurately these facts and principles in the lives of the chief founders and builders of America?”
ii) “The dramatic, the picturesque, the personal, appeal powerfully to the young mind, leading it to see the past as a living present, and to think the thoughts and experience the feelings of people who now live only in their words and deeds.”
iii) “the words quoted literally in this book are enclosed in double quotation marks; those quoted in substance only are enclosed in single marks; while those attributed by the writer to different speakers have no marks.”
We will review how this text presents the life of George Washington.
“…He was a well meaning boy, but he had a hot temper, and at times his blue eyes flashed fire.” (page 109)
This is an unsubstantiated attack on Washington’s character. Claiming that he was hot-tempered as a youth is completely contrary to facts borne out by those who knew him and lived in his era:
He was incapable of fear, meeting personal dangers with the calmest unconcern. Perhaps the strongest feature in his character was prudence, never acting until every circumstance, every consideration, was maturely weighed; refraining if he saw a doubt, but, when once decided, going through with his purpose, whatever obstacles opposed. His integrity was most pure, his justice the most flexible I have ever known, no motive of interest, or consanguinity, or friendship or hatred, being able to bias his decision. He was in every sense of the words, a wise, a good, and a great man.1
Thomas Jefferson, President,
United States of America
…the life of our Washington cannot suffer by comparison with those of other countries who have been most celebrated and exalted by fame… Malice could never blast his honor, and envy made him a singular exception to her universal rule… His example is now complete, and it will teach wisdom and virtue to magistrates, citizens and men, not only in the present age, but in future generations, as long as our history shall be read… 2
John Adams, President,
United States of America
Washington, the clam intrepid chief, the disinterested friend, first father and temporal savior of his country under Divine protection and direction… I am disposed to lose sight of all but Washington: matchless man! At all times he acknowledged the providence of God, and never was he ashamed of his Redeemer.3
Reverend Francis Asbury,
Pioneer of American Methodism
“…When the boys played “soldier” they liked to have “Captain George” as commander. When he drew his wooden sword and shouted “Come on!” they would all rush to battle with a wild hurrah. Years afterward, when the real war came, and George Washington drew his sword in real battle, some of his school companions may have fought under their old leader.” (page 109)
This is an example of fiction.
Similar to the cherry tree episode, which has been proven to originate from a two-page, 1932 publication issued by Stanford University Press in San Francisco, and falsely attributed to Mason L. Weems’ 1800 biography of George Washington (where no mention is made of a cherry tree); George kills his mother’s favorite colt:
This is an example of fiction.
“…a band of Indians, who stopped and danced a war dance for them. The music was not very good… but the dancing could not be beat. The Indians leaped into the air, swung their hatchets, gashed the trees, and yelled until the woods rang.” (page 112)
Major Washington dressed himself like an Indian… ” (page 113)
We can find no original source documentation for either of these Indian stories.
“When they reached the Allegheny River, they found it full of floating ice. They worked all day and made a raft of logs. As they were pushing their way across with poles, Washington’s pole was stuck by a big piece of ice which jerked him out into water ten feet deep. A short time later the two men managed to get to a little island, but as there was no wood on it, they could not make a fire. The weather was bitterly cold, and Washington, who was soaked to the skin, had to take his choice between walking around all night, or trying to sleep on the frozen ground in his wet clothes.” (page 114)
Common sense tells us that a person soaked to the skin in a frozen river, stranded on an island with no wood, does not survive by walking around all night.
“Colonel Washington fought like a man who liked to hear the bullets whistle past his ears (as he said he did)…” (page 115)
We can find no original source documentation for this quote attributed to George Washington. However, in his pastor Mason L. Weem’s 1800 biography of Washington, a different, heroic and godly account of Colonel Washington is given:
Crossing the Delaware
“…It looked at one time as though our men would all be taken prisoners; but Washington managed to seize a number of small boats on the Delaware River and get across into Pennsylvania. As the British had no boats, they could not follow… On Christmas night (1776) he took many boats, filled them with soldiers, and secretly crossed over to New Jersey. The weather was intensely cold, the river was full of floating ice, and a furious snowstorm set in. Many of our men were ragged and had only old, broken shoes. They suffered terribly, and two of them were frozen to death. However, General Washington never heard one complaint from these brave men.” (page 123)
In Exploring American History, only two paragraphs are devoted to this monumental feat – crossing the Delaware River to New Jersey on Christmas, 1776.
However, Mason L. Weems’ famous biography of George Washington describes this amazing task, and God’s miraculous intervention as follows:
…the British with an infinite superiority of force, after having defeated the Americans with great loss, were investing the slender remains of their army, and had actually broke ground within six hundred yards of the little redoubt that feebly covered their front. Soon as it was dark, Washington ordered the troops to convey their baggage and artillery to the waterside, whence it was transported over a broad ferry all night long, with amazing silence and order. Providentially, a thick fog continued next morning ’till ten o’clock; when that passed away, and the sun broke out, the British were equally surprised and enraged to see the rear guard with the last of the baggage, in their boats, and out of all danger…
Towards the close of this trying campaign, it is a fact that Washington had not 3,000 men; and even these were so destitute of necessaries, that nothing but their love and veneration for him kept them together. And with this handful he had to oppose a victorious army, of nearly forty thousand veterans! But Jehovah, the God of Hosts, was with him; and oft’ times, in the ear of the slumbering hero, His voice was heard, “fear not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God.”
Hence, under all the disheartening circumstances of this campaign, Washington not only kept up his own spirits, but cheered those of his drooping comrades… Firm as the iron rudder-bands that maintain the course of the ship in her trembling flight over raging seas, so firmly did Washington cleave to his countrymen…5
These are amazing episodes of Divine intervention in the Revolutionary War. Washington referred to this. Note the following letter he wrote on August 20, 1778 to his Virginian friend, Thomas Nelson:
And again, it was summed up by Washington in his First Inaugural Address:
Exploring American History, like many others, gives fictionalized accounts in an attempt to entertain children, and it establishes myths, thus watering down the noble deeds which were the outgrowth of our heroic founders’ godly lives.
II. Boys and Girls of Colonial Days textbook
Boys and Girls of Colonial Days by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey was published in 1917 by A. Flanagan Company. It was republished in 1990 by Christian Liberty Press; again by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey, but revised and edited by Michael J. McHugh.
In it, the editor removed three chapters, including one called “The Jack-‘O-Lantern Witch.” This highly questionable chapter would obviously be objected to by Christian parents. It is the story of a grandmotherly figure, who had been accused of being a witch of Salem, but is saved by children who stand up in her defense.
It is very questionable that three chapters were added to Carolyn Sherwin Bailey’s book. Who wrote them? Were they added in 1990 and attributed to Bailey who had published her book in 1917? Were they written by the editor, Michael J. McHugh?
The last three chapters were written focusing on the George Washington era. The most telling example of its inferiority as history is the last page of the book which includes a picture of George Washington and a statement that exemplifies his “noble spirit” by his compassion for animals! It certainly sounds as though the writer was one influenced by the modern humanistic thinking regarding animal rights:
Some Christian textbook publishers have chosen a neutral stance in regard to whether or not our great leaders were motivated by their Christian faith. On the surface, this may seem like a noble response in the midst of controversy. But I maintain that this is simply taking the path of least resistance.
III. Our American Heritage textbook
Our American Heritage, a third grade textbook by Judy Hull Moore, was published by A Beka Book, Pensacola Christian College in 1997, Third edition.
Following is a paragraph from its Introduction:
At first glance, this paragraph, along with the rest of the Introduction, seems quite sound and is even inspiring. However, I ask you to follow me in a study into one hero as presented in this book, versus this person’s original writings. Then you will make a decision for yourself.
The narrative consists of cute little stories made up to entertain. Their value is questionable:
Christopher Columbus’ Parents
Christopher’s parents were very sad to hear their son talk about going to sea and sailing great ships. Christopher’s grandfather and father were weavers. Now they expected Christopher to become a fine weaver of soft wool, too.
Pirates attacked his ship. “His ship broke apart and sank” suggests that probably everyone drowned, except Columbus, who floated to shore on an oar.
False Concepts are Presented
In the above two narratives, Columbus’ motivation is presented falsely.
A few pages later, children learn that,
After the fear-filled sailors plot to kill Columbus by throwing him overboard, and then suggest lying to the King and Queen of Spain about how he died, a tid-bit of Christianity is thrown in on the very next page. Suddenly, after land is spotted, everyone “becomes converted” so to speak, and the men who would have killed Columbus on page 11 are now kneeling and thanking God. After all, one needs to sprinkle a few Bible verses here and there, and one sentence in the entire 15-page account on Columbus, where “thanking God” appears at the end, in order to validate it as a “Christian” textbook:
These Christian textbook publishers are holding up a form of godliness while denying its power, as described in 2
Columbus Presented as a Seeker of Gold
Further to this, Columbus is presented as a seeker of gold:
Columbus Returns to Spain
How excited King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain were to see Columbus and the bags of gold he brought with him! (page 14)
Additional weight is added to the argument by,
i) An illustration of a treasure chest surrounded by objects of great wealth;
ii) A Scripture to further condemn this misrepresented Christian hero! (The love of money is the root of all evil. I Timothy 6:10a)
Columbus is Accused of Forcing Christianity on the Indians:
Columbus believed that it was right to force these Indians to come to Spain. “Here they can be taught how to become Christians,” Columbus probably thought. Columbus was not right in trying to force the Indians to become Christians. The Bible says that a person can be saved only by coming freely to Jesus. (page 14)
Test questions, under the title Comprehension Check, marks the end of this lesson on Christopher Columbus:
Not only do these Christian publishers imply the evil motivation of Columbus, but they actually include a test question in which the child has to answer “True or False” to the Question: “Columbus was interested in teaching the Indians to become Christians.” If he answers “True,” he is validating their concept that Columbus forced Christianity upon the Indians. If the child answers “False,” he is reinforcing the entire lesson’s thesis that Columbus’ sole motivation was to find gold and riches.
These Test Questions at the end of the chapter are ambiguous and confusing to a child. As I read it, I thought the answer would be “False,” because Columbus was presented as a seeker of gold and one that captured Indians, forcing them to become Christians. This is exactly what humanistic educators have been doing in trying to devalue, dishonor, and vilify, not only Columbus, but also missionaries throughout history; describing them as meddlers and destroyers of the culture and civilization of the “noble savage.”
Original Writings of Christopher Columbus
Columbus wrote a book entitled Book of Prophecies, in which he copied down Scripture pertaining to bringing the gospel to unknown coast lands. The book was only recently translated into English from the original Latin and Spanish versions by a great scholar, Dr. August Kling. It was my privilege to spend several fascinating hours sharing research finds with Dr. Kling prior to his death in 1986, just months after our meeting.
Columbus’ Book of Prophecies
The following lengthy quotation from the Introduction to Christopher Columbus’ Book of Prophecies summarizes not only his deep commitment to the gospel mandate, but also points to the Bible as the very source of his inspiration:
Columbus’ Burden for Lost Souls
Columbus’ letter to Lord Raphael Sansix, dated May 3, 1493, is entitled, Concerning the Islands Lately Discovered, and gives insight, once again, into the soul of this great American hero, his intense love of the Lord, his life of prayer, and his desire to bring the life-saving gospel of Jesus Christ to these distant shores. It is here under excerpted:
God’s Timely Help in the Midst of Tribulation
Perhaps one of Columbus’ most insightful and moving letters was the one he wrote from Jamaica on July 7, 1503 during his last voyage to America. It depicts his inner soul, his human frailty in perilous times, and God’s help in the midst of tribulation. It is here excerpted:
Columbus’ Last Will and Testament and the Christian School
In his famed Mayorazgo (Testament of Founding Hereditary Family Estate), dated Thursday, 22nd February, 1498, are these directions for maintaining and sustaining a Christian school on the Island of Espanola:
When I wrote The Rewriting of America’s History, I had reviewed secular textbooks. I was shocked at what I found. But more recently I have been examining Christian history textbooks, and I have found many inaccuracies and fallacies which I have just presented.
IV. United States History for Christian Schools textbook
In addition to the one researched, let me briefly add another example, one taken from the Bob Jones University Press, United States History for Christian Schools by Timothy Keesee and Mark Sidwell published in 1991. In this lesson on Christopher Columbus, there is no mention of his Christianity apart from naming the island San Salvador (Holy Savior) in gratitude for safe arrival. And again, he is presented as an explorer, looking for Asian riches:
Statements on Columbus from “United States History for Christian Schools”
by Bob Jones University Press:
Columbus’ Original Writings
…For the execution of the journey to the Indies I did not make use of intelligence, mathematics or maps. It is simply the fulfillment of what Isaiah has prophesied. All this is what I desire to write down for you in this book…I said that some of the prophesies remained yet to be fulfilled. These are great and wonderful things for the earth, and the signs are that the Lord is hastening the end. The fact that the gospel must still be preached to so many lands in such a short time — this is what convinces me.12
I have shared this information with many different school groups. The responses have always been amazement and surprise – even resentment at the truth having been withheld from them. In talking with the students, it became apparent that they were being taught sterile, dry facts, devoid of the spiritual values which motivated Columbus’ great achievements, galvanizing him to action. That is maybe why they were being turned off to education in general and history in particular. The problem is, the very inner life has been stripped away from our history. Students are not exposed to the life-changing and motivating forces at the core of these heroes’ lives. As so many giants of history testify, it is God who gave them the talents and the enablement to change the world for His glory.
Roger Williams – Founder of Rhode Island
In England, the scholar Roger Williams had studied both law and theology. He had also witnessed the great abuses of the state against those not of the Anglican, or state-sanctioned, religion. Such was the case of Scottish physician Alexander Leighton, who was,
Williams fled to America with very strongly-held passions regarding such abuses of power by the civil government. However, his views were much too strong for the Puritan church of Massachusetts, which had held to the view that true Christians should attempt to purify the Church from within, unlike the separatists of Plymouth who chose to separate from it and form their own church. He and his wife arrived in Boston in 1631, as described by historian Bancroft:
Extensive biographies are available on the life, as well as the writings and letters, of the distinguished and prolific Williams.
As we review his life, I will show you the contrast between these two extreme views of the life of Roger Williams. The sources will be:
i) America, the First 350 Years by J. Steven Wilkins, published in 1988 by Covenant Publications, Monroe, Louisiana, a textbook used in Christian Schools.
ii) Biographical Introduction by Reuben Aldridge Guild, A.M. in The Complete Writings of Roger Williams in Seven Volumes published by Russell & Russell, Inc. 1963, and part of the Library of Congress collection.
V. America, the First 350 Years textbook
by J. Steven Wilkins
Myth #1 – “Roger Williams Was a Victim of Typical Puritan Intolerance.”
By contrast, here is a quote from Guild in his Biographical Introduction:
Williams had been asked to become pastor of the Church at Salem in spite of pressures not to have him. When the church then began to be persecuted for this decision, Williams chose to leave and settle in Plymouth, where he stayed for two years. There he was highly popular.
A Key to the Language of America
While in Plymouth, Williams formed friendships with the Indians, even going to lodge with them in order to learn their language and customs and thus be an instrument in their conversion, as well as an instrument in securing peace between the colonists and the Indians. In 1643, Williams published A Key into the Language of America: or, An Help to the Language of the Natives in that part of America, called New England, in which the Genesis creation account, as well as other Biblical truths are to be found. Williams concludes his work with a prayer to Almighty God:
Now to the most High and most Holy, Immortal, Invisible, and the only Wise God, who alone is Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the Ending, the First and the Last, who Was, and Is, and is to Come; from Whom, and to Whom are all things; by Whose gracious assistance and wonderful supportment in so many varieties of hardship and outward miseries,…be Honor, Glory, Power, Riches, Wisdom, Goodness and Dominion ascribed by all His in Jesus Christ to Eternity, Amen.
Providence Founded by Williams
Later in 1636, Roger Williams started a settlement which he named Providence, to show his gratitude to Almighty God. He obtained the land through his peaceful negotiations with the Indians, who welcomed him due to his many kindnesses to them over time:
America, the First 350 Years
By contrast, the modern history book, America, the First 350 Years, makes no mention of Williams’ relationships with the Indians.
In 1633, Williams returned to Salem to resume work in the church there, however, the controversy with both the clergy and civil court of Massachusetts soon re-ignited and in time resulted in his being banished from the colony.
In America, the First 350 Years, the following statement appears regarding Williams:
Life of Roger Williams
By contrast, Professor Gammell, in Life of Roger Williams, wrote concerning his banishment:
The Bloudy Tenent, of Persecution, for Cause of Conscience
by Roger Williams
Williams’ 1644 work: The Bloudy Tenent, of Persecution, for Cause of Conscience, was published in 1644 by Gregory Dexter. It was written in answer to Cotton’s work upholding the right and enforcing the duty of the Civil Magistrate to regulate the doctrines of the church. Considered his greatest work, Williams prefaces his case as follows:
Whether Persecution for cause of Conscience be not against the Doctrine of Jesus Christ the King of Kings. The Scriptures and reasons are these:
Because Christ commandeth that the tares and wheat (which some understand are those that walke in the truth, and those that walke in lies) should be let alone in the world, and not plucked up until the harvest, which is the end of the world, Matt. 13.30.38
The same commandeth Matt. 15.14 that they that are blinde (as some interpret, led on in false religion, and are offended with him for teaching true religion) should be let alone, referring their punishment unto their falling into the ditch.
Again, Luke 9.55.56. hee reproved his disciples who would have had fire come downe from heaven and devour those Samaritans who would not receive Him, in these words; Ye know not what manner of Spirit ye are of, for the Son of Man is not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them …. All civill states with their officers of justice in their respective constitutions and administrations are proved essentially civil and therefore not Judges, Governours or Defendours of the spirituall or Christian state and worship…18
In conclusion, J. Steven Wilkins’ portrayal of Roger Williams in his America, the First 350 Years, is entirely biased and merciless in its attack on the character of Roger Williams, founder of Rhode Island.
Roger Williams finds his place in America’s Hall of Fame, having been chosen by the citizens of Rhode Island to represent them as their greatest hero in the United States Capitol.
Teaching Critical Analysis and Reflective Thinking by comparing, contrasting and thoughtfully analyzing modern-day history curricula against the original writings, documents, speeches and addresses themselves, is essential to inculcating in America’s youth a balanced and accurate understanding of our nation’s true Christian identity. Without this valuable tool, students are floundering – incapable of grasping the great Biblical truths and heroic epics undergirding a unique nation under God.
If the Foundations be Destroyed, what can the Righteous do?
At this juncture of America’s history, we can no longer merely trust the “label” of a history book or curricula as the blueprint for its historic accuracy. Most of the history books and curricula published in America since the 1930’s are written in a narrative vein, omitting original prime source documentation.
If the words, conversations and actions of our founding fathers are unsubstantiated, and if original bibliographical source material is omitted, the question arises: “From where did the author or editor acquire his information?”
It is my prayer for Teaching Critical Analysis and Reflective Thinking, that parents, teachers, pastors and students will develop this skill, and thus side-step the secular-humanistic indoctrination woven into widely-used fictional accounts of America’s greatest Christian founders, leaders, statesmen and heroes.
To learn more, click here.
1 Padover, Saul K. (ed.) A Jefferson Profile. New York: J. Day and Company, 1956, p. 227.
2 Adams, John. Address to the U.S. Senate on the Death of Washington. December 22, 1799 newspaper article.
3 Asbury, Francis. The Journal and Letters of the Reverend Francis Asbury. In three volumes. (Volume II). The Journal, 1794-1816. Elmer T. Clark (ed.).pp. 213-216.
4 Weems, Mason L. A History of the Life and Death, Virtues and Exploits of George Washington, Esq. Faithfully taken from authentic documents, and now, in a third edition improved, respectfully offered to the perusal of his countrymen; as also of all others who wish to see human nature in its most finished form. Reprinted by John Bioren: Philadelphia, 1800.
5 Weems, Mason L. The Life of George Washington. Philadelphia: Printed for the author, formerly rector of Mount Vernon Parish, pp. 82-83. Rare Book Collection of the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C
6 Commager, Henry Steele. Documents of American History. F.S. Crofts and Company, 1934, pp. 151-152.
7 Kling, August J., Ph.D. “Columbus – A Layman Christ-bearer to Uncharted Isles.” Translation of Introduction to Christopher Columbus’original hand-written Book of Prophecies. The Presbyterian Layman. October, 1971.
8Columbus, Christopher, Concerning the Islands Lately Discovered, The Epistle of Cristobal Colon to Lord Raphael Sansix, Treasurer of King Ferdinand of Spain. May 3, 1493. Rare Manuscript Division of Library of Congress,Washington, D.C.
9 Columbus, Christopher. Translation of Manuscript copy of a Letter written by Christopher Columbus to the King and Queen of Spain, dated on the Island of Jamaica, July 7, 1503. Rare Manuscript Division of Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
10 David, Maurice. Who Was Christopher Columbus? Letter from Don Cristobal Colon to his son, Don Diego, published by the Duchess of Berwick y Alba. New York: The Research Publishing Company, 1933, p. 92.
11 Kling, August J., Ph.D. “Columbus – A Layman Christ-bearer to Uncharted Isles.” Translation of Introduction to Christopher Columbus’original hand-written Book of Prophecies. The Presbyterian Layman. October, 1971.
13 Neale, History of the Puritans, Vol. 2, p. 210.
14 Bancroft on Roger Williams.
15 Elton, p. 16.
16 Williams, Roger. Mr. Cotton’s Letter lately printed, Examined and Answered. London, printed in the yeere 1644.
17 Gammel, Prof. Life of Roger Williams, pp. 38-39.
18 Williams, Roger. The Bloody Tenant of Persecution, for Cause of Conscience, discussed, in a Conference between Truth and Peace. Who, in all tender affection, present to the High Court of Parliament. Printed by Gregory Dexter, 1644, Preface. Rare Book Collection, Library of Congress. Washington, D.C.