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Learning Like Abe:   M.L. Weems' Legends and Stories of George Washington, with Curious Anecdotes

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The legend of George Washington and the Cherry TreeAbraham Lincoln' boyhood and adult hero and life model

One of the first books that the young Abraham Lincoln would read was the Parson Wheems' Biography of George Washington. 

One of the stories in this old book was the source of a great legend about George Washington:  the Cherry Tree and honesty.

     When George was about six years old, he was made the wealthy master of a hatchet of which, like most little boys, he was extremely fond. He went about chopping everything that came his way.

     One day, as he wandered about the garden amusing himself by hacking his mother's pea sticks, he found a beautiful, young English cherry tree, of which his father was most proud. He tried the edge of his hatchet on the trunk of the tree and barked it so that it died.

     Some time after this, his father discovered what had happened to his favorite tree. He came into the house in great anger, and demanded to know who the mischievous person was who had cut away the bark. Nobody could tell him anything about it.

     Just then George, with his little hatchet, came into the room.

     "George,'' said his father, "do you know who has killed my beautiful little cherry tree yonder in the garden? I would not have taken five guineas for it!''

     This was a hard question to answer, and for a moment George was staggered by it, but quickly recovering himself he cried:

     "I cannot tell a lie, father, you know I cannot tell a lie! I did cut it with my little hatchet.''

Abraham Lincoln and George Washington are two of the most famous presidents in United States history. They both served two terms in office during their own time and are memorialized in the present by statues, U.S. currency, and Mount Rushmore.

George Washington was the first president of United States. He served from 1789–1797. Abraham Lincoln served as the 16th President of the United States from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865.

Abraham Lincoln versus George Washington Fact Box/ Comparison Chart


Abraham Lincoln

George Washington

Political Party

Republican Party

Was not a member of any political party. He never officially joined the Federalist Party, America's first political party, but supported its programs.


Four sons; only one survived to adulthood.

None. Adopted Martha’s two children.

Vice President

Hannibal Hamlin (1861-1865); Andrew Johnson (1865)

John Adams


No formal affiliation

Anglican / Episcopal; Deism

Date of birth

February 12, 1809

February 22, 1732


Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Lincoln. Step Mother Sarah Bush Johnston

Augustine Washington and Mary Ball Washington


Country lawyer, an Illinois state legislator.

Tobacco farmer and plantation owner.

Place of birth

Hardin County, Kentucky (now LaRue County)

in Westmoreland County, Virginia, Pope's Creek Estate (now Colonial Beach)

Full Name

Abraham Lincoln

George Washington


Self educated from independent study.

Seven to Eight years of tutoring by his father and half brother Lawrence, and training in surveying.


Mary Todd

Martha Dandridge Custis


On Friday, April 14, 1865, aged 56, Lincoln was assassinated at Ford's Theatre in Washington D.C. by John Wilkes Booth.

December 14, 1799, aged 67, Washington died from pneumonia.


Believed that America should be "united not divided ". He disliked slavery and wished for the people to be as one.

Against partisanship, sectionalism, and involvement in foreign wars. He was a Deist who had a profound belief and faith in "Providence" or a higher "Devine Will"


16th President of the United States. Served 4 years. Elected first in 1860. Re elected but assassinated in 1865.

1st President served April 30, 1789 – March 4, 1797 (2 terms)


Not a wealthy family. The second child to Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Lincoln. Step Mother Sarah Bush Johnston.

Wealthy Family The first child of Augustine Washington and his second wife, Mary Ball Washington.

Military Service

Member of the Illinois Militia during the Black Hawk War/Union Commander during the Civil War.

Militia: 1752–1758; Continental Army: 1775–1783; Army: 1798–1799


Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.; face on $5 bill and the cent. The state nickname for Illinois is ‘Land of Lincoln’. Mount Rushmore holds his face.

Called ‘Father of the Nation’; face appears on $1 bill and the quarter coin; the Confederate Seal features him on horseback. Nation’s capital, Washington, D.C and Washington state are named after him. Mount Rushmore holds his face.

Notable Contributions

Led country during Civil War; On January 1, 1863, he issued the Emancipation Proclamation to free slaves.

Led Revolutionary War; Washington presided over the Philadelphia Convention that drafted the United States Constitution in 1787; Proclamation of Neutrality of 1793 .


April 15, 1865 (1865 - 05 - 15) (aged 56), Washington D.C., District of Columbia, U.S.

December 14, 1799


Abraham Lincoln, (1809 - 02 - 12) February 12, 1809, Hodgenville, Kentucky, U.S.

February 22, 1732



First president of the United States

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