By John R. Schirmer
The disadvantageous circumstances on our part, under which the war was undertaken, can never be forgotten. The singular interpositions of Providence in our feeble condition were such, as could scarcely escape the attention of the most unobserving; while the unparalleled perseverance of the Armies of the U States, through almost every possible suffering and discouragement for the space of eight long years, was little short of a standing miracle. George Washington, 1783
The holiday weekend brought a special visitor to Nashville – President George Washington.
More specifically, Washington’s words came to town in a 40-minute portrayal of the first president by Judge Josh Morriss of Texarkana. The program was presented at Immanuel Baptist Church.
Morriss, chief justice of Texas’ Sixth Court of Appeals, researched and wrote “A Standing Miracle” based on Washington’s view of God’s hand in American history.
Morriss studied Washington’s writings to develop the script for “A Standing Miracle,” which he first presented in 1995.
The setting was Philadelphia on March 4, 1797, shortly before the first transfer of power under the United States Constitution. Washington’s two terms as president were up, and John Adams was about to become president. Washington could have run for president again because the Constitution had not been amended to include any kind of term limits for the office. However, he chose to step down and return to his home at Mt. Vernon, Va.
For the program, Morriss dressed in 1790s attire associated with Washington and addressed the audience as Washington might have done before he left office. He moved around a small table where he had signed some official papers.
Morriss will be referred to as Washington as the story of his presentation is told.
“I resign without a single regret,” Washington said. “I will miss you. After I walk out that door, I can’t be sure you will listen to me again.”
Washington noted that 15 years earlier, an officer had proposed “in a very foolish letter to install me as king,” which he did not want to become after the American colonists had overthrown the British monarchy.
“I’m afraid of what is to come. I’m afraid of what my fellow citizens will do with my country,” Washington said, noting that there had already been a small rebellion which was put down while he was president.
“God gave us this country as a sacred trust. These eyes have witnessed the very hand of God,” Washington said.
From there, Washington noted six examples “of how God created the United States. Some would attribute them to chance.”
The first “providential link” came during the French and Indian War in the 1750s and early ‘60s. Indians ambushed British troops near the banks of the Monongahela River in Pennsylvania, and 63 of 86 officers were killed or wounded. “Ever mounted officer fell except me,” Washington said. “Four bullets hit my coat, but I escaped unhurt.”
In the fall of 1770, Washington returned to the area, where the old chief who had led the ambush met him. “A power shielded you,” the chief told Washington. “The Great Spirit protects this man. People yet unborn will hail him as the founder of a great empire. He is the particular favorite of heaven and could never die in battle.”
Providential link 2 came when Washington was elected to lead the colonial army in the Revolution. “I saw multiple instances of God’s graciousness on our behalf,” Washington said.
The British failed to take advantage of an opportunity to attack near Boston, and Washington’s men took some large guns which the British left and sledded them to Boston. “If the British had attacked, five minutes would have seen us with empty guns,” Washington said of the British lapse. Afterward, a storm blew up and the “Redcoats evacuated Boston without us losing a man. The storm was a great interposition of providence.”
The next link came in August 1776 when the British had American forces almost surrounded on Long Island, New York. The Redcoats did not attack for two days, and Washington’s men escaped in rowboats to Manhattan. “God intervened as if in the nation of Israel. Dense fog arose and hid our lines and our evacuation boats. It lifted after our last boat was beyond the range of British muskets,” Washington said.
Providential link 4 was the British loss at the Battle of Cowpens, where American commander Daniel Morgan eluded the British after an overnight rain made rivers impassable. “It was as if he had been delivered through the Red Sea,” Washington said.
Number 5 came when British Gen. Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown after a retreat had been thwarted by a sudden storm. The day after the surrender, Washington ordered “a Thanksgiving service for all the troops to give thanks to God for the repeated and astonishing interpositions of providence that led to this great victory.”
The Treaty of Paris in 1783 that officially ended the war was “because of all that God had done,” Washington said.
The final link came after Washington returned to Mt. Vernon after the war to what he “hoped was a normal life.”
Shay’s Rebellion and other incidents left the federal government “nearly at a standstill. We needed a stronger national contract, the Constitution,” Washington said.
Washington was named to lead the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. During the meeting, delegates were deadlocked on many issues, Washington said, including representation. Large states wanted representation based on population; small ones wanted equal representation for all states. The Great Compromise settled the issue with the House of Representatives based on population and the Senate based on equal representation.
Ben Franklin “rose and turned the convention on its ear,” Washington said, when he urged delegates to pray for their work. “At the beginning, we had daily prayers. They were heard and answered. Have we now forgotten this powerful friend or think we no longer need his assistance,” Franklin said.
Washington said the “great God of the Universe has led us too far to forsake us. We have been given freedom. God does indeed govern in the affairs of men. Let us hold high the torch of freedom. The time has come. I take my leave. ‘Tis well,” Washington said as he left the stage.