George Washington’s Hidden Life

Did George Washington have a secret life?

According to historian James Thomas Flexner, Washington’s biographer, maybe so.

“Although (George Washington) drank and gambled and (we gather) wenched as did his officers, he was known as a stern disciplinarian in military matters,” Flexner wrote in 1965 in the first of his six volume biography.

Flexner’s open-mindedness about his hero is compelling. Thomas Jefferson’s biographer, Dumas Malone, denied to his dying day that the Sage of Monticello was capable of interfering with one of his enslaved women.

But Flexner’s use of  “wenched” as an intransitive verb is an effort to shift the onus from the great wencher to the irrelevant woman with whom he wenched.

If we accept the second dictionary definition of “wench” as “prostitute,” it’s a case of boys being boys.

If, however, we accept the dictionary’s first definition of “wench” as “servant girl,” to use her as a means of wenching sounds more like boys raping.

No one knows whether young George’s women were willing partners but it doesn’t really matter. Even as a young officer, Washington was a white aristocrat who probably considered farm and pub girls as his inferiors. He knew he had power over them whether they liked it or not.

George Washington, as Flexner points out, created many precedents as the nation’s first president. Is it possible that some of those precedents paved the way for powerful men to seek sex from powerless women anytime they got an itch? Jefferson impregnated at least one of his slave women. Cleveland conceived a child out of wedlock. Harding explored hidden spaces in the White House to have sex with a young woman. FDR and Ike were unfaithful to their wives and LBJ had several mistresses. John Kennedy’s sexual appetite was breathtaking; he once told British Prime Minister Harold McMillan that if he didn’t have a different woman every three days he got terrible headaches.

Because bedrooms of yore were private places, we will never really know how many other presidents took advantage of powerless women. No doubt most of the men who occupied the White House were upright men who were faithful to their wives and treated women with respect. I’m sure that list includes Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Joe Biden..

But conspicuously missing from this chaste list is the 45th president, whose attitudes and actions towards women are migraine inducing. As Donald Trump sits mum amid accusations of rape it’s clear he is not going to sit down and reassess his life and the harm he has done to his fellow human beings.

That’s too bad. Because as thousands of women are letting it be known that they will no longer tolerate crude and abusive behavior by men, we could use a little male moral leadership to speak on behalf of us guys: sisters, you are right, and we have been deplorable. We vow hereinafter to show you the respect you deserve.

But Mr. Trump will remain smugly quiet. And to be sure, there is little he can say at this point to erase the words that will be carved in granite on the walls of his presidential library:

“Grab ‘em by the pussy. You can do anything.”

About Philip E Jenks

Philip, a synodical deacon in the ELCA Metropolitan New York synod, is a retired communicator for American Baptist Churches USA, the U.S. Conference for the World Council of Churches, the U.S. National Council of Churches, and two Philadelphia area daily newspapers. He and his spouse, the Rev. Dr. Martha M. Cruz, are the parents of six adults and are members of St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church in Rye Brook, N.Y. They live in Port Chester, N.Y.
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2 Responses to George Washington’s Hidden Life

  1. anfearfaire says:

    You are throwing a lot of stones, Mr. Jenks. I am not a supporter of our former president, but let him who is without sin cast the first stone. There was much evil and horrendous deeds done by our ‘Christian’ forefathers in the name of Freedom, Democracy, and spreading Christian principles…Extermination of the Native Americans, Slavery, and Segregation. Our supposedly God-fearing Christian Teachers in our public school system taught us that slavery was a “good” thing. They stated that the Negroes were cannibalizing themselves over in Africa and that slavery was a step in the process of “civilizing” these brute savages. Similarly, we were taught that the Native Americans were scalping each other and fighting their own kind (as if white Europeans have not been warring against each other since ancient times). At the same time our Christian parents, elders, and church folk of the day were mute on these issues. Today we have St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Rye Brook, NY stating homosexuality is not a sin on its website. Is adultery now not a sin? Is stealing now longer a sin? Is taking the name of the Lord in vain not a sin? ELCA condones the slaughtering of the innocents i.e., abortion. The church of today, as it had centuries ago goes along with what is the social and political norms of the day. Paul states in Romans 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. Likewise, Isaiah 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. Mr. Jenks, you should use your blog and occasional homilies at St. Paul’s to spread the word of God, preach the Gospel of Christ shedding his blood for remission of sins, calling your hearers and reader to repentance and encouraging folks to be good stewards of the Lord. You waste a lot of screen space and your readers time with your ongoing rants against Mr. Trump. Mr. Jenks, your gift of writing ought to be used to spread the Gospel and lead folks to the Lord instead of using it to propagandize your social and political beliefs.
    An Fear Faire☘️

  2. anfearfaire says:

    I am tired and fed-up with my friends, associates, and casual acquaintances bombarding me with their views and opinions of Trump. On the right, there are those expounding on his virtues and work to “Make America Great Again.” On the left I am subjected to rants against both Trump and his followers. The man has been out of office for two years. GET OVER IT.

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