George Washington Endorsed a Bible

There all kinds of things about America’s history that most people do not know. Kenneth Davis made a name for himself by writing a series of books with the “Don’t Know Much About” moniker. His most famous one, “Don’t Know Much About History,” was taken from the Sam Cooke song “Wonderful World”:

Don’t know much about history
Don’t know much biology
Don’t know much about a science book
Don’t know much about the French I took

But I do know that I love you
And I know that if you love me too
What a wonderful world this would be

Don’t know much about geography
Don’t know much trigonometry
Don’t know much about algebra
Don’t know what a slide rule is for

One of the things most Americans don’t know (and politicians and the folks at the ACLU and Americans for the Separation of Church and State) is that George Washington endorsed a Bible.

In 1792, a year after the Bill of Rights was adopted and ratified, including the First Amendment, John Brown’s Self-Interpreting Bible was published in New York. Brown was a Scottish Presbyterian minister. He selected comments on biblical texts from several well-known Bible commentaries and included them as notes to help the general reader better understand the text..

Funds were raised for the project through private “subscriptions” (contributions), and the names of subscribers were listed alphabetically at the beginning of the volume. The name heading the list is “GEORGE WASHINGTON, Esq. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.”The prestige of Washington’s name associated with the Bible was an endorsement that was sure to attract other subscribers and buyers.

Also listed as “subscribers” are Henry Knox (Secretary of War), Alexander Hamilton (Secretary of the Treasury), and John Jay (Chief Justice of the Supreme Court), and numerous other notable founders.

The Frontispiece offers a perspective on how the Constitution was viewed in light of the Bible. There is an engraving of a female figure holding an open Bible illuminating another female with the Constitution rolled up in her hand. Between them stands a woman holding a pole with a Liberty Cap. In the background, the façade of a building includes these words: “Sacred to Liberty, Justice, and Peace.”

You can guess what would happen if a conservative presidential candidate and several high profile conservatives did a similar thing today. The outrage would be screamed from the top of the Washington Monument.