Swiftboating George Washington

For politicians, it’s the same olde, same olde story

rendering of George Washington
"We, The Delaware Boat Veterans, take as our solemn duty before our Creator to make known the truth concerning the Presidential candidate who calls himself George Washington." Eric Palma

Back page of the January 3, 1789, edition of the Philadelphia Weekly Gazette:

We, the delaware boat veterans, take as our solemn duty before our Creator to make known the truth concerning the Presidential candidate who calls himself George Washington. We beseech the public to read our account.

General Washington hath permitted certain myths and misconceptions to arise surrounding his alleged role in the crossing of the Delaware River on December 25, 1776. As pious and patriotic citizens, We have the Means of calling the right of it in question and thereby setting history's record straight.

On the night recalled, Each one of us did cross the Delaware. But none did see General Washington in any of the lead boats. We were in the first two boats to come ashore and We attest that no officer of a rank higher than captain was with us.

Whilst it may be that the General did in due course make his way to the opposite bank, it was well after the dawn and passage was in a heated ferryboat. Any account of him astride the bow of the first boat is most assuredly a fable—perhaps a rumor conceived by the General himself, to provide inspiration for a future painting in the service of his vanity.

We further have it on reliable evidence that General Washington spent Christmas night at a local Inn in the company of his goodly wife, Martha. Whilst we suffered the bitter cold of that fearsome night, he supped and drank and then slept under down in warm comfort. By these perfidies, he has verily shewn himself to be unfit to rule a free people.

We desire not to tarnish the General's reputation. Indeed, we seek only the God's truth, for Washington did command the Continental Army and, by His grace, was ultimately victorious.

However, might not the triumph have come much sooner and at far less cost? Washington's injudicious splitting of forces and continual retreats surely prolonged the War far beyond its expected end. It was only the ill-advised decisions of British General Howe that saved us from catastrophic defeat in New York.

There are those who claim that Washington's intemperate use of food and drink impaired his judgment, but we offer no comment on that matter, for he always supped alone and discarded his empty bottles away from our sight.

It has been said by some that we are partisans of John Adams or Thomas Jefferson. We know not from where such false rumours hath arisen. We are independent citizens under no sort of Influence public or private. We seek payment from no man but have concern only for the well-being of these United States.

As veterans of the war of Independence, We would find it most agreeable to support one of our own as Leader of this new country. But when a man such as Washington seeks to corrupt the truth to his own benefit, we cannot in all good conscience stand idly by. In truth, we doubt even the veracity of the tiresome childhood fable about his refusal to dissemble about the cherry tree he felled when the tempers were upon him.

David Martin's essay "Dream On" appeared in the July 2008 Smithsonian.

Eric Palma