Monday, February 17, 2014
George Washington Day
George Washington, by Gilbert Stuart, +1828AD.
Today, in the Commonwealth of Virginia, is George Washington Day, in honor of the Fairfax County, Virginia native and first President of the United States. Credited as the "father of his country," George Washington (1732-1799AD) was pivotal in the independence movement and revolution of the colonies that formed the United States, not only in his role as military commander, but as the President who set all of the precedents. His approach was one of prudence and steadiness, and his contributions are most certainly a great part of the longevity and stability of this Republic.
His home at Mount Vernon is worth visiting if you find yourself in the area -- it is here that he is buried: http://www.mountvernon.org/
We can leave aside, on this day to honor him, a discussion of his Freemasonry, church attendance habits, and role in a revolution against his sovereign.
As a side note, George Washington DID say this: "A free people ought not only to be armed but disciplined; to which end a uniform and well digested plan is requisite: And their safety and interest require that they should promote such manufactories, as tend to render them independent on others, for essential, particularly for military supplies." That in his first address to Congress, on 8 January 1790. cf., http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/washs01.asp. Spurious versions of this statement are prevalent about now!
Undoubtedly, folks will refer to today as "Presidents' Day," which it might be in some places, but not in Virginia, for one.
Indeed, here is the page from the Code of Virginia on this very subject of state holidays, and you will not carefully today's observance in this complete list of legal holidays:
"§ 2.2-3300. Legal holidays.
It is the policy of the Commonwealth to fix and set aside certain days in the calendar year as legal holidays for the people of Virginia. In each year, the following days are designated as legal holidays:
January 1 - New Year's Day.
The Friday preceding the third Monday in January - Lee-Jackson Day to honor Robert Edward Lee (1807-1870) and Thomas Jonathan (Stonewall) Jackson (1824-1863), defenders of causes.
The third Monday in January - Martin Luther King, Jr., Day to honor Martin Luther King, Jr., (1929-1968), defender of causes.
The third Monday in February - George Washington Day to honor George Washington (1732-1799), the first President of the United States.
The last Monday in May - Memorial Day to honor all persons who made the supreme sacrifice in giving their lives in defense of Virginia and the United States in the following wars and engagements and otherwise: Indian Uprising (1622), French and Indian Wars (1754-1763), Revolutionary War (1775-1783), War of 1812 (1812-1815), Mexican War (1846-1848), War Between the States (1861-1865), Spanish-American War (1898), World War I (1917-1918), World War II (1941-1945), Korean War (1950-1953), Vietnam War (1965-1973), Operation Desert Shield-Desert Storm (1990-1991), Global War on Terrorism (2000-), Operation Enduring Freedom (2001-), and Operation Iraqi Freedom (2003-). On this day all flags, national, state, and local, shall be flown at half staff or mast to honor and acknowledge respect for those who made the supreme sacrifice.
July 4 - Independence Day to honor the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
The first Monday in September - Labor Day to honor all people who work in Virginia.
The second Monday in October - Columbus Day and Yorktown Victory Day to honor Christopher Columbus (1451-1506), a discoverer of the Americas, and the final victory at Yorktown on October 19, 1781, in the Revolutionary War.
November 11 - Veterans Day to honor all persons who served in the Armed Forces of Virginia and the United States in the following wars and engagements and otherwise: Indian Uprising (1622), French and Indian Wars (1754-1763), Revolutionary War (1775-1783), War of 1812 (1812-1815), Mexican War (1846-1848), War Between the States (1861-1865), Spanish American War (1898), World War I (1917-1918), World War II (1941-1945), Korean War (1950-1953), Vietnam War (1965-1973), Operation Desert Shield-Desert Storm (1990-1991), Global War on Terrorism (2000-), Operation Enduring Freedom (2001-), and Operation Iraqi Freedom (2003-).
The fourth Thursday in November and the Friday next following - Thanksgiving Day to honor and give thanks in each person's own manner for the blessings bestowed upon the people of Virginia and honoring the first Thanksgiving in 1619.
December 25 - Christmas Day.
Whenever any of such days falls on Saturday, the Friday next preceding such day, or whenever any of such days falls on Sunday, the Monday next following such day, and any day so appointed by the Governor of the Commonwealth or the President of the United States, shall be a legal holiday as to the transaction of all business."
Interestingly, even in United States code, this day is known as Washington's Birthday -- no hint of "Presidents' Day." You might note this reference from the Federal Office of Personal Management explaining their title for this day: "This holiday is designated as 'Washington’s Birthday' in section 6103(a) of title 5 of the United States Code, which is the law that specifies holidays for Federal employees. Though other institutions such as state and local governments and private businesses may use other names, it is our policy to always refer to holidays by the names designated in the law."
Here is the US Code itself: "The following are legal public holidays:
Washington’s Birthday, the third Monday in February."
So, no President's Day in Virginia, even appealing to the code of this Federal Republic.
You might have noticed, as well, the more local Virginia state holiday in the list above, that of Lee-Jackson day in honor of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, two other remarkable Virginians. The Commonwealth also claims the first Thanksgiving -- in 1619AD -- occurred in the Old Dominion before Massachusetts was even founded!
Does your state or province have its own holiday? It probably does!
Do you know what it is?