The claim was made in Part I that all presidents are made gods over the United States, being adopted into its pantheon, and this was based on George Washington’s singular apotheosis by former Vatican artist Constantino Brumidi. Admittedly, this claim would be rather shaky and questionable if it stood on that piece of history alone.

However, George Washington has had several inaugurations into godhood, venerated as most Roman Catholics idolize various dead men, and the historical footprint of this sort of superstitious culture in American society reveals just how idolatrous and pagan American nationalism really is:

David Edwin, Apotheosis of Washington (1800)
David Edwin, “Apotheosis of Washington” (1800)

The engraving shows Washington, dressed in his burial shroud and clothes, sitting on clouds above Mount Vernon. An angel (or Cupid) is laying a laurel wreath on his head in an effort to bestow immortality upon him. To the right two men are standing suspended in the clouds gesturing to Washington perhaps in welcome to heaven. They are Richard Montgomery and Joseph Warren who were both major generals in the Continental Army during the Revolution and who were killed in battle in 1775.

John James Barralet. The Apotheosis of Washington or The Commemoration of Washington (1802-1816)
John James Barralet, “The Apotheosis of Washington” or “The Commemoration of Washington” (1802-1816)

An image which first appeared in 1802 and was reproduced in many forms (including prints and painted glass) has the title “The Apotheosis of Washington” or “The Commemoration of Washington” (as it first appeared in February 1802 when Washington would have turned 70). It shows George Washington ascending into heaven assisted by Father Time and an angel (or “Immortality”). Shafts of light shine down from heaven through a break in the clouds as the angel and Father Time lift Washington, wrapped in a red piece of cloth or perhaps his burial shroud, from what appears to be his coffin or crypt. To the left three women (Faith, Hope, and Charity) can be seen: one holds her hand out towards him grieving; another holds two children in her arms; and a third is slumped forward on her arms weeping. This imagery is strikingly similar to the resurrection of Christ, emerging from the tomb, to be greeted by women before eventually ascending into Heaven. Beneath Washington can be seen an American eagle, the American shield on which is written “e pluribus unum” and Liberty, whose head is bowed in sorrow. Her staff with the red phrygian cap is resting among Washington’s discarded armour and sword which lie beside a fasces. In the far right bottom corner we can see an American Indian with his hatchet and arrows sitting with his head resting on his knees. On the tomb is written the words “Sacred is the Memory of Washington OB 11 Dec. – D 1799. Et. 68”.

This obsession with deifying rulers in history is not just some experiment that the ‘New World’ attempted with George Washington and discarded with him. This exact engraving by Barralet was replicated for Abraham Lincoln.

Clements Library, Brian Dunnigan
D. T. Weist (1865)

Weist pirated John Barralet’s Commemoration of Washington print by re-creating it with Abraham Lincoln’s head atop Washington’s body and changing the inscription on the tomb. The symbolic imagery did not suit Lincoln as well as it did Washington, but this did not prevent the print from outselling Barralet’s original. This may be regarded as some kind of piggyback for Lincoln, in a lame attempt to give his ruling legacy equal footing with that of Washington, but relating these two magistrates together as part of a godhead does not stop here.

J. A. Arthur, Washington & Lincoln. (Apotheosis.), carte-de-visite, Philadelphia. 1865.
J. A. Arthur, Washington & Lincoln. (Apotheosis.), carte-de-visite, Philadelphia. (1865)

The popular postcard which was produced in considerable numbers after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln in 1865. It depicts Lincoln ascending into heaven. He is dressed in black robes as is George Washington who is embracing him in welcome and is about to place a laurel wreath upon Lincoln’s head. Angels are beckoning him to ascend towards the light which streams from the top left of the image. The image embodies American sentiments toward the two Presidents, one as the founder and the other as the savior of the American Republic.  Charles Sumner noted in his eulogy on Lincoln: “the work left undone by Washington was continued by Lincoln.”

The American presidency is often applauded as a fruit of The Age of Reason, where man can be liberated from the dusty traditions of the superstitious old world. Democracy was heralded to be the shining example of man’s political evolution, away from the bestial “divine right” of kings and emperors and charlatans. The truth is that rulers are ‘gods’ no matter whether they inherit that position from birth or by the voice of the people, like we see with King Saul, the Caesars, or with Presidential elections. When it comes down to it, America’s slogans do not refer to the God of the Bible, but the top-down polity of Gentile tradition.

This is blog post is the second part of a three part series. You can read the first part here and the third part here.

InGodWeTrust
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