Back in the days of "the Long Armistice," one of the favorite parlor tricks of the intelligentsia was debunking the unsullied stalwarts of the past. Abraham Lincoln became, in these circles, a shrewd country lawyer, Barbara Fritchie an irascible old fishwife, and it was discovered to the intense joy of the iconoclasts that George Washington not only told lies but had unmistakable earmarks of a stuffy, conservative militarist.
Since those days, the pendulum has swung back a bit. Washington's Birthday, instead of being jeered at as a chauvinistic relic of D.A.R. promotion, is taken for what it is worth. It's a holiday in commemoration of an old patriot who undeniably pulled us out of a shaky situation, and, for all his shortcomings, managed to hold a few colonies together after the shouting and shooting had passed away. He might have been king, the historians tell us. He refused--and that's favor we might well thank him for.
A good deal of the trouble connected with Washington really isn't his fault. Misguided legend-makers foisted such monstrosities on five generations of Americans as "Father, I cannot tell a lie," and "First in war, first in peace . . ." Those harmless little tidbits are setups for prep school cynics and picayunish parodyists. But unfortunately the well-meaning myth-manglers have escaped their due punishment. Poor old George Washington takes it all, and he's been taking it in varying doses for 150 years. It's a credit to him that he has borne it all so patiently, and that the date of his birth still strikes a few sparks of sympathetic gratitude in the hearts of men common and uncommon, the country over.