Most of my facebook friends are aware at how indignant I get when anyone has so little respect for themselves and for American History that they exhibit how stupid they are and how poor their education has been by reporting, citing, and otherwise repeating statements which either have no basis in history whatsoever (Michele Bachmann's statement that 9 year old John Quincy Adams was a founding father), or are total misrepresentations of fact (Sarah Palin's outrageous and laughable retelling of Paul Revere's ride to warn the British that the British were coming). The proof to me that their education has been without merit or effect is that they cannot even recognize how unlikely some statements would be coming out of the mouths of the founding fathers. Recently a friend posted the following:
“A free people ought not only be armed and disciplined, but they should have sufficient arms and ammunition to maintain a status of independence from any who might attempt to abuse them, which would include their own government"
The alleged quote is ascribed to George Washington, sometimes as part of his First Annual Message to Congress (January 8, 1790). Good luck trying to find it anywhere in that message … or for that matter, in any legitimate source of Washington's notes, messages, thoughts, and so forth. The actual likely quote is from George Washington's First State of the Union, and it goes like this:
"A free people ought not only to be armed, but disciplined; to which end a uniform and well-digested plan is requisite; and their safety and interest require that they should promote such manufactories as tend to render them independent of others for essential, particularly military, supplies."
While I'm on a roll, here's another statement attributed to George Washington at the Second Session of the First Congress, and quoted as freely as the misquote above, but this one is amusing on several levels. The quote: (sometimes referred to as the “Liberty Teeth” speech):
“Firearms stand next in importance to the Constitution itself. They are the American people's liberty teeth and keystone under independence. The church, the plow, the prairie wagon, and citizen's firearms are indelibly related. From the hour the Pilgrims landed, to the present day, events, occurrences, and tendencies prove that to insure peace, security and happiness, the rifle and the pistol are equally indispensable. Every corner of this land knows firearms, and more than 99 99/100 percent of them by their silence indicate they are in safe and sane hands. The very atmosphere of firearms anywhere and everywhere restrains evil interference; they deserve a place with all that's good. When firearms go, all goes; we need them every hour.”
First, there is NO reference to it or anything like it in any of Washington's personal papers, notes, thoughts, and so forth. Second, the reference to “99 99/100ths” is a very unusual construct to find in any 18th Century comment – this may be the only one! Third, the reference to the “prairie wagon” is a most interesting anachronism; there was no American prairie as yet within the time frame of the 2nd session of the first Congress from February 16, 1790 to August 12, 1790 – the prairie in question belonged to the French.