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Friday, September 10, 2010

Washington Wouldn't Burn the Qur'an

Over at the Religion in American History blog, historian Chris Beneke points out how the current drama over the scheduled burning of the Qur'an on 9/11 by nut-job idiots is invoking a powerful rebuking from General David Petraeus. General Petraeus has urged Americans to abstain from such hate-filled activities not only because of their obvious prejudice but because they also, "put our troops in harm's way."

As Dr. Beneke points out, General Petraeus' admonition is not without its historical precedent. In 1775, General George Washington also had to shoot down a similar act of religious hatred within the ranks of his own army. Dr. Beneke writes:
Amid the siege of British-occupied Boston in 1775, the recently appointed commander of the Continental Army, General George Washington issued an order that must have resulted in some grumbling in the ranks. For decades, English and American Protestants had burned effigies of the Pope to celebrate the thwarting of (the Catholic) Guy Fawkes' attempt to blow up Parliament on November 5, 1605. Bostonians marked the anniversary in a particularly lively way that featured fireworks, two flammable "Popes," and one grand fistfight. But in November 1775, with Catholic support for the American war effort desperately needed, an irritated Washington ordered his soldiers to forgo their beloved Pope's Day festivities.
These Pope Night activities are something I have written about before on this blog (click here and here to read the articles). For the General, these activities represented a clear breach of morality and discipline. Washington's General Order of November 5, 1775 illustrate this fact:
As the Commander in Chief has been apprized of a design form'd for the observance of that ridiculous and childish custom of burning the Effigy of the pope -- He cannot help expressing his surprise that there should be Officers and Soldiers in this army so void of common sense, as not to see the impropriety of such a step at this Juncture; at a Time when we are solliciting, and have really obtain'd, the friendship and alliance of the people of Canada, whom we ought to consider as Brethren embarked in the same Cause. The defence of the general Liberty of America: At such a juncture, and in such Circumstances, to be insulting their Religion, is so monstrous, as not to be suffered or excused; indeed instead of offering the most remote insult, it is our duty to address public thanks to these our Brethren, as to them we are so much indebted for every late happy Success over the common Enemy in Canada.
One can only hope that the admonitions of both generals (Washington and Petraeus) will not go ignored by the masses.

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