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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Friday, February 22, 2008

Washington’s Thanks for Birthday Wishes

This was a “George Washington week” at Boston 1775, and today is the anniversary (in a way) of his actual birthday. So it seems appropriate to quote the general’s response to Rochambeau, his French ally, on 24 Feb 1781:

The flattering distinction paid to the anniversary of my birth-day is an honor for which I dare not attempt to express my gratitude. I confide in your Excellency’s sensibility to interpret my feelings for this, and for the obliging manner in which you are pleased to announce it.
Washington was actually born on 11 Feb 1731/2 Old Style, according to the calendar the British Empire used at that time. However, that was the Julian calendar, and the year was still reckoned to start in March. According to the more accurate (but papal) Gregorian calendar, that day was 22 Feb 1732. Washington adopted that as his birth date in 1752 when the British Empire finally accepted the “New Style” as better.

(Very pink portrait of President Washington from the Library of Congress.)

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