This weekend, my wife and I found ourselves in a furniture store purchasing a brand new couch.Â It wasnât a compulsive purchase; rather, it was a purchase that took place after browsing countless furniture websites and visiting numerous furniture stores.Â Furthermore, we planned to make the purchase this weekend.Â Why?Â Well, because it is Presidentâs Day Weekend where furniture sells for rock bottom prices, or as we experienced, no sales tax.
Technically, Presidentâs Day isnât the actual name of the holiday Americans are celebrating todayâŚ the federal name for the holiday is Washingtonâs Birthday.Â It was the first federal holiday to honor an American citizen, President George Washington, and it was first implemented by Congress in 1880.Â For almost 100 years, the date of celebration was on February 22, Washingtonâs actual birthday; however, in 1971, the federal holiday was changed to the third Monday in February by the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. This date places it somewhere between February 15 and 21âŚ never on Washingtonâs actual birthday.
But there is even controversy about the actual date George Washington was born.Â According to the Julian calendar, the calendar in use at the time of his birth, George Washington was born on February 11, 1732; however, the Gregorian calendar, which was adopted by the English colonies twenty years after Washingtonâs birth, states that he was born on February 22, 1732.
The Julian calendar was the Roman calendar implemented by Julius Caesar after counseling with Roman astronomer Sosigenes of Alexandria.Â They determined, in 45 BC, the length of time the Sun takes to return to the same position in the cycle of seasons, as seen from Earth, as 365.25 days (the 0.25 was manifested as a leap day added to February every four years).Â Approximately 1,600 years later, it was brought to the attention of Pope Gregory XIII that the Julian calendar wasnât precisely correct because each year was actually eleven minutes shorter than previous thought.Â Eleven minutes over 1,600 years added about ten days to the calendarâŚ and since Catholics werenât celebrating Easter on the right day, the Pope insisted on a change.Â This important error was fixed in 1582 using arithmetic to change the calendar from 365.25 days a year to 365.2425âŚ and the Gregorian calendar was adopted by Catholics, but not by many others.Â It wasnât for a couple hundred more years that predominately Protestant countries would start adopting the calendar and do so all the way up until the early 1900s (Russia and Greece).Â In 1752, Britain and the colonies adopted the new calendar which took eleven days away from their existing calendarâŚ and eleven days away from George Washingtonâs birthday, which, apparently, he didnât mind.In 1968 Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Bill Act which moved Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Columbus Day, and Veterans Day from fixed dates to designated Mondays.Â It would take effect starting in 1971 and the purpose was to increase the number of three-day weekends for federal employees as well as promoting business.Â What it did not do was establish âPresidentâs Dayâ nor did it combine the observance of Lincolnâs Birthday with Washingtonâs Birthday.
The controversy regarding the name âPresidentâs Dayâ has a few potential origins.Â One comes from an early proposal debated in committee in Congress in 1968 that would have honored both Washington and Lincolnâs birthday and called the holiday âPresidentsâ Day,â but this version failed to pass. Another comes from a spoof in 1971 played on President Nixon who was said to have signed and executive order honoring all Presidents on the third Monday of February, including himself.Â A third comes from the fact that the states are not compelled to celebrate only âWashingtonâs Birthdayâ (in fact, only 29 states and the District of Columbia do), but other states celebrate multiple Presidents during February.Â Ten states celebrate the holiday honoring Lincolnâs birthday as well, Massachusetts celebrates âPresidentsâ Dayâ honoring its four native-born Presidents, and even Alabama includes Thomas Jefferson in its celebration.
Whatever the reason, perhaps itâs a good thing.Â A generic âPresidentâs Dayâ diminishes the accomplishments of one of Americaâs greatest Presidents, George Washington, while rewarding the mediocrity and subversion of others such as Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
In 2001, the âWashington-Lincoln Recognition Actâ (HR420) was introduced to Congress and proposed that âthe legal public holiday known as Washingtonâs Birthday shall be referred to by that name and no other by all entities and officials of the United States Governmentâ and requested âthat the President issue a proclamation each year recognizing the anniversary of the birth of President Abraham Lincoln and calling upon the people of the United States to observe such anniversary with appropriate ceremonies and activities.âÂ However, this Act died in subcommittee and never made it to the floor for a vote.
Maybe if they expanded it the âWashington-Lincoln-Reagan Act,â it might make it out of committee and get some votes on the floor.Â After all, they were all born within two weeks of each other, so it makes sense.Â In the meantime, we celebrate Washington.Â We celebrate Washington because he was fair and just and because he could have been an American King, but chose to serve only two terms for a total of eight years as Americaâs first top executive.Â That is why his Farewell Address is so important and why on this day, it is read on the floor of the Senate.
President James Buchanan said, âWhen the birthday of Washington shall be forgotten, liberty will have perished from the earth.âÂ Well, unfortunately in 2011, the birthday of Washington seems to be forgotten on those Wisconsin Democrats hiding out at a resort in Illinois.Â Perhaps they should read Washingtonâs Farewell Address today so they can see how they are insulting the Father of our Country, George Washington.Â An excerpt from the Washingtonâs Farewell Address:
All obstructions to the execution of the Laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle, and of fatal tendency. They serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation, the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels, and modified by mutual interests.
So, as liberty perishes in Wisconsin, Iâm doing my part to maintain it where I live.Â We do our part to celebrate Washingtonâs Birthday by getting our patriotic selves together and stepping into that furniture store with that big red, white and blue âSALEâ banner and we make a purchase on our credit card for a big ticket item that we found and we donât have to pay the sales tax! Yep, weâre honoring President George Washington and doing our small part to help the economy at the same time.Â I think George Washington would be proud.