George Washington's Adopted Daughter Discusses
Woodlawn, 26 February, 1833.
I received your favor of the 20th instant last evening,
and hasten to give you the information, which you desire.
Truro Parish is the one in which Mount Vernon, Pohick
Church, and Woodlawn are situated. Fairfax Parish is now Alexandria. Before
the Federal District was ceded to Congress, Alexandria was in Fairfax County.
General Washington had a pew in Pohick Church, and one in Christ Church
at Alexandria. He was very instrumental in establishing Pohick Church,
and I believe subscribed largely. His pew was near the pulpit. I have a
perfect recollection of being there, before his election to the presidency,
with him and my grandmother. It was a beautiful church, and had a large,
respectable, and wealthy congregation, who were regular attendants.
He attended the church at Alexandria when the weather
and roads permitted a ride of ten miles. In New York and Philadelphia he
never omitted attendance at church in the morning, unless detained by indisposition.
The afternoon was spent in his own room at home; the evening with his family,
and without company. Sometimes an old and intimate friend called to see
us for an hour or two; but visiting and visitors were prohibited for that
day. No one in church attended to the services with more reverential respect.
My grandmother, who was eminently pious, never deviated from her early
habits. She always knelt. The General, as was then the custom, stood during
the devotional parts of the service. On communion Sundays, he left the
church with me, after the blessing, and returned home, and we sent the
carriage back for my grandmother.
It was his custom to retire to his library at nine or
ten o'clock where he remained an hour before he went to his chamber. He
always rose before the sunand remained in his library until called to breakfast.
I never witnessed his private devotions. I never inquired about them. I
should have thought it the greatest heresy to doubt his firm belief in
Christianity. His life, his writings, prove that he was a Christian. He
was not one of those who act or pray, "that they may be seen of men." He
communed with his God in secret.
My mother resided two years at Mount Vernon after her
marriage with John Parke Custis, the only son of Mrs. Washington. I have
heard her say that General Washington always received the sacrament with
my grandmother before the revolution. When my aunt, Miss Custis died suddenly
at Mount Vernon, before they could realize the event, he knelt by her and
prayed most fervently, most affectingly, for her recovery. Of this I was
assured by Judge Washington's mother and other witnesses.
He was a silent, thoughtful man. He spoke little generally;
never of himself. I never heard him relate a single act of his life during
the war. I have often seen him perfectly abstracted, his lips moving, but
no sound was perceptible. I have sometimes made him laugh most heartily
from sympathy with my joyous and extravagant spirits. I was, probably,
one of the last persons on earth to whom he would have addressed serious
conversation, particularly when he knew that I had the most perfect model
of female excellence ever with me as my monitress, who acted the part of
a tender and devoted parent, loving me as only a mother can love, and never
extenuating or approving in me what she disapproved of others. She never
omitted her private devotions, or her public duties; and she and her husband
were so perfectly united and happy that he must have been a Christian.
She had no doubts, no fears for him. After forty years of devoted affection
and uninterrupted happiness, she resigned him without a murmur into the
arms of his Savior and his God, with the assured hope of his eternal felicity.
Is it necessary that any one should certify, "General Washington avowed
himself to me a believer in Christianity?" As well may we question his
patriotism, his heroic, disinterested devotion to his country. His mottos
were, "Deeds, not Words"; and, "For God and my Country."
With sentiments of esteem,