J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Washington and the Cherry Tree

Every American “knows” the story of young George Washington and the cherry tree, and knows that it has no basis in fact. But how many of us have had a chance to read the original version of that story?

Here’s Mason Weems’s fable as it was published in 1809, transcribed by the George Washington Papers at the University of Virginia.

The crucial point:

The next morning the old gentleman finding out what had befallen his tree, which, by the by, was a great favourite, came into the house, and with much warmth asked for the mischievous author, declaring at the same time, that he would not have taken five guineas for his tree. Nobody could tell him any thing about it.

Presently George and his hatchet made their appearance.

George, said his father, do you know who killed that beautiful little cherry-tree yonder in the garden?

This was a tough question; and George staggered under it for a moment...
What will our young hero say?

(Today’s picture, also courtesy of the Washington Papers at Virginia, shows Grant Wood’s painting Parson Weems’ Fable.)

1 comment:

pilgrimchick said...

Actually, I did read the original when I was taking a class in Colonial American history way back when. Poor George. I am sure more people could tell you this fable than could tell you when George was President.