Did George Washington cut down a cherry tree? Well, the history behind this question is complicated. Some individuals believe this incident is true. It is a strange tale of President Washinton’s past. But then which president cut down the apple tree? Though some say it was Abraham Lincoln. In this article, you will find out whether George Washington chopped the cherry tree or not and how this story propagated to become a legend.
1. Who Published the Biography of George Washington?
When Washington died in 1799, a decision was made around the country to record the wonderful life of the first nationwide hero. In 1800, Mason Locke Weems, popularly known as Parson Weems, volunteered to do that work and in 1800, published The Lifetime of Washington, the first biography of George Washington which became an instant best-seller.
It was in the fifth edition of this book in 1806 that the genesis of Washinton cutting a cherry tree takes place. Weems supposedly got the story from an elderly family friend of the Washingtons and he chose not to reveal his identity. Though the story remains fascinating, it isn’t the most credible one. So, Did George Washington cut down a cherry tree? You may never know because of the lack of strong evidence regarding the same. (Also read 8 Presidents Before George Washington)
2. What is the Full Story of the Cherry Tree?
According to the story, a small ax was gifted to Washington when he turned six. He immediately went and cut down the famous cherry tree, a favorite of his father. Once his father got to know about it, he angrily asked his son if he did it. Instead of lying, George bravely confessed that it was he who did it. His father’s anger disappeared after hearing that and he embraced him stating that honesty is more valuable than a thousand trees. (Also read What do Cherry Blossoms Symbolize?)
3. What did the Story Teach you?
You know a lot about Washington’s life from the biography. But information about his relationship with his father who died when George was eleven, was not complete. The cherry tree story forever cemented the impression among readers that George and his father shared a cordial relationship and it is believed by everyone today.
Money could be the reason behind this story written by Weems. He also wanted to teach morality through his work of Washinton. He wanted everyday folks and especially young people to marvel at the stories of young George. He knew people will believe such fabricated tales and see the demand of the audience. (See Was Jesus Really a Carpenter?)
4. Which President Cut Down the Apple Tree?
You may ask, did George Washington cut down a cherry tree? Well, it had been associated with his name for years. There were some other intriguing myths surrounding apple trees also. Actually, it was believed that no apple trees are related to the story, and if there were, then Washington was the one who cut the cherry tree only. (Also read I Can See Russia from My House)
5. What are the Myths related to Washington?
- It is believed that Washington had dentures made of wood. Although he had poor dental health, this story is totally false. However, he had dentures made of ivory, gold, and even human teeth, reportedly taken from slaves. Also, check out Is Ronald McDonald Real?
- There is a legend that Washington once threw a silver dollar across the Potomac River. While it was mentioned that it would require a strong person to get that back despite Washinton’s great physique. So this is just a story that was used to depict the poor strength of Washington and that’s not true.
- Washington’s step-grandson Parke Custis, however, accounts for a story where George threw a slate across the Rappahannock River in Fredericksburg, Virginia which could be true as the Rappahannock is narrower than the Potomac.
- It is also said that Washington freed his slaves before he died. It is true but throughout his life, he had around 250 slaves. The American Revolution changed his heart but he took no action to abolish slavery. Even after freeing his slaves, it was said that he continued to use them. His wife Martha also owned slaves until she died in 1802. (See How Old would Martin Luther King be today?)
Did George Washington cut down a cherry tree? You now know the answer. You all had such incidents in your childhood that remain fresh in your memories forever and this topic is related to one of them for Washington. (Also read What is the Name of Lovecraft’s Cat?)