John James Barralet, "The Apotheosis of Washington" (1802-1816)
[See a larger version
of the image
as an engraved print for more details].
Unknown, "The Apotheosis of Washington
and Lincoln" (1865)
The first president of the United States, George Washington, was born on February
22, 1732 and died on December 14, 1799.
The third Monday of February is designated "Presidents
the United States. It was first proclaimed quite late in the history of the
republic (1880) and therefore was not part of the evolution of the office of
the presidency in its first hundred years. In fact, the founding fathers would
probably have been horrified at the thought of paying hommage in this way to
a single man or even the office of the presidency when more abstract notions
of "liberty" and
"rule of law" were still so highly regarded. Celebrating the man
would have smacked too much of the idea of kingship which they had fought so
hard against in the 1770s and 1780s. There had been some talk of making the
highest political office in America an "elected monarchy" but even
a wealthy, slave owning, ex-general like George Washington baulked at the idea.