George Washington and the Cherry Tree ~ Despite the Myth

I'm quite certain that all of us have grown up hearing the inspiring story of our first President, George Washington, when he was a boy. He chops down his father's prized cherry tree, and upon being questioned, admits to his guilt, using the thereafter famous words, "I cannot tell a lie".

It's a story that always made a slight impression on me, although I never really acted upon that impression and tried to excuse myself out of bad behavior. Still it's a good story.

I was helping my younger brother to read it the other day, when my other  brother piped up and announced, "By the way, they found out that the cherry tree story is just a myth."  At first I was quite indignant about this, but as I got to thinking about it, I realized that I had probably heard that bit of news before, and just forgotten about it.

Source: via Tim on Pinterest

Thinking it would be interesting to research the matter a little, I did a quick online search, and on the couple of links that I clicked on, it did seem to be true. [1]

Now, I'm not saying that I did extensive research, or that I believe these people to know what they are talking about, but I was given the general impression that the tale is either highly exaggerated or false. This is apparently because of a man called Parson Weems who was Washington's first biographer. [2]

Again, from the extremely brief reading that I did on the matter, I seemed to discover that Weems was a man who liked to exaggerate things, and color the facts to suit his purposes. If that was the case, it's rather ironic that in this way he decides to create a tale that promotes honesty.

Now, I have not found this to be proven, and although Washington is not a personal hero of mine, I am certainly not questioning his integrity. No, the whole reason I'm writing this is because of a matter that I have encountered before.

"It's too good to be true. It's not real"

Not only with the story of the Cherry Tree, but also with G.A. Henty books, one or two Louisa May Alcott books, E.D.E.N. Southworth, and I'm sure there are others, I have actually thought myself, or been told that they aren't worth reading because the characters are too good, too well-behaved, or too innocent.

I now disagree. These books are totally worth reading and enjoying! It is blindness on the part of our culture that refuses to see merit in goodness, especially what appears as over-the-top virtue. I do see merit, however. Every time I read a book like that I feel motivated and inspired to become better! I want to overcome my faults, do good to others, and strive longer and harder to be all that God wants me to be!

So despite it's debatable origins, I still like the story of the Cherry Tree. Despite the author's exaggeration or creation, it is still a story that we can embrace because of it's obvious portrayal of truth and honesty. Although the Henty characters are almost perfect in every way (not to mention almost identical in personality), I still love a good Henty adventure not just for a exciting setting, but also for a hero that I can look up to and admire. Jack and Jill, by Louisa May Alcott still happens to be one of my favorite books, despite the fact that children don't behave that way (at least not now!), because it describes good morals without being preachy and patronizing.

Yes, I love them, and will continue to do so. I love being inspired to be more than "good enough", and I enjoy putting my mind on sweeter and better things than what one usually finds in todays society.

"Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things." ~ Philippians 4:8

These books and stories may all be fictional, but the qualities that make them worthwhile are true.

[1]Washington's Cherry Tree: Legend or Fact?, George Washington: Cherry Tree (Wikipedia)
[2]Parson Weems )Wikipedia


  1. Great post! It sometimes seems that the culture feels too guilty that we aren't as good as our forefathers. At least that would explain a lot of why they are always telling us that men like G.Washington or Lincoln weren't as honorable as they were said to be.

    Jack and Jill is my favorite too. It's a winter time tradition to reread it.:)

  2. Most excellent post! We need more books that reflect on Philippians 4:8. I'm glad Lamplighter books are helping to bring them back!

  3. You're absolutely right; nowadays people, by way of excusing how far we have fallen, want to point fingers and say "how unrealistic!"

    I have seen that most particularly in the movie world. I can think of several books that contained upright, honorable, steadfast people that have been adapted to films in the last 10-15 years, and those 'boring' 'unrealistic' characters replaced with 'complex' 'real' removing their virtues people think characters are made more interesting and life-like.

    Now, it is not possible for any real person to be 'perfect'. So, in that sense, Henty's heroes are not 'realistic' But I think you are perfectly right and they are still good to spend time with! We should be seeking the upright and holy.

    But most characters that get condemned by the world as being too 'perfect' are nothing of the kind, merely people who had higher standards than our culture does now. Jack and Jill...I love them too! And yet you totally can see that they are very far from being 'perfect'.


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