Monday, July 21, 2008

Gays in the Military

Gays in the Military: What General Washington Had to Say

Conservative columnist Star Parker has written a provocative article asking what the nation's first general would think of allowing homosexuals in military service. In her article "Gays in the Military: What Would George Washington Think?", Parker laments that the values of our nation are being diminished. Citing the public's growing acceptance of gays in the military, Parker writes:

The culture war is like the recipe for boiling a frog. If you drop it in hot water, it jumps out. But if you drop it in cold water and slowly turn up the heat, you get frog soup.

Concession by concession, traditional values are being pushed, inexorably, to the margins of America.

It's a sign of this moral war of attrition that each battle is fought with less and less attention to what it means to the overall war.

Many, of course, see no problem with America's increasing acceptance of gays and lesbians (and their lifestyle). Parker wonders what General George Washington would think or say. Fortunately, the answer is available, for those willing to confront it.

First, let's set aside the ridiculous claims (by some) that George Washington was himself gay. There is no scholarly basis for these claims. They are (at best) attempts to associate a beloved figure with a controversial lifestyle in order to advance its acceptance. At worst, it is historical revisionism deserving of no more respect than graffiti on a bathroom wall. While there is strong, circumstancial evidence that George Washington was sterile, there is no evidence that he was anything but heterosexual.

What about gays in the Continental Army? What would General Washington have to say about that?

In March 1778, Lieut. Frederick Gotthold Enslin was courtmartialed and dismissed from the Continental Army for "attempting to commit sodomy, with John Monhort a soldier" and "for Perjury in swearing to false Accounts."

In a report dictated apparently by Washington and copied out by his staff, the general's feelings are made clear. "His Excellency the Commander in Chief approves the sentence and with Abhorrence and Detestation of such Infamous Crimes orders Lieutt. Enslin to be drummed out of Camp tomorrow morning..."

It is remotely possible that General Washington only "detested" Lieutenant Enslin's aggressiveness or breach of military protocol, but this is unlikely. It's more reasonable to assume that Washington's finding of Enslin's behavior as "detestable" was in keeping with mainstream opinion of that day. Virtually all the colonies and later states had laws on the books against sodomy until the mid-twentieth century, when they began to be phased out or challenged in court. Finally, in 2003, the US Supreme Court invalidated all remaining anti-homosexuality statutes.

Some historians have argued that the Baron de Von Steuben was gay. Would General Washington have forfeited the services of von Steuben if this were true and his homosexuality were known? It is hard to say, since the Prussian drillmaster was indispensable to the training and strengthening of the Continental Army.

It is reasonable, in my opinion, to assume that General Washington found homosexual conduct unnatural, distasteful, and immoral. But it's also possible that, given the right circumstances, he would be amenable to the "don't ask, don't tell" policy on the books currently for our armed services.


John Witter said...

Washington's position on homosexuals in the military seems to be a reach on Mrs. Parker's part.
If Washington had taken a stand on the issue that was different from public opinion, or radically altered the military with a new vision, then his actions would have been more relevant. Washington believed in discipline and enforcing the rules. He lead by example.
Her argument seems tantamount to saying we should not teach Spanish in school because Martin Luther King didn't speak Spanish.
Perhaps a better historical analogy would be the formation of all black units in the Union army during the Civil War. What would Lincoln say about prioritizing military success vs. social norms?

Nick said...

The world spins forward, and values change! There is nothing wrong with homosexual love, there never was and there never will be. So we are allowed to kill another man, but we are not allowed to marry one. What hypocracy! Oh, And Alexander Hamilton and his lover Henry Laurens were gay! Look it up!

Nick said...

See my American History Blog at:

Michael Ejercito said...

Homosexual intercourse smells of devils and death; all people should avoid it like Ebola.

Nick said...

Michael Ejercito said...
Homosexual intercourse smells of devils and death; all people should avoid it like Ebola.

1:49 PM

The usual unintelligent and bigotted remarks.
And I say vaginal intercourse smells even more like death, can you smell rotten fish!! stay away from it like the plague!
We will see what Larry Kramer has to say about Washington's sexuality when his new book comes out!

Michael Ejercito said...

How is it bigoted to abhor homosexual intercourse?

Nick said...

If you don't think it's bigoted to abhor homosexual intercourse, then you shouldn't have a problem with gay men serving in the military openly.

Michael Ejercito said...

If you don't think it's bigoted to abhor homosexual intercourse, then you shouldn't have a problem with gay men serving in the military openly.
As long as they serve honorably, that is fine by me.

Unknown said...

Does it really matter what George Washington would have thought about LGBT in the military? Really? Because there a Alexander the Great, a Roman emperor (who put his male lovers face on the coin instead of his own), and an Egyptian Pharaoh who was lovers/partners with his top general who would likely have a different opinion than George. But maybe George Washington thought of this particular story a different way-- way back when, a man (or men) having anal intercourse with another man had nothing to do with attraction or their libido- I'm speaking of rape- which is not about attraction,its about violence. It had nothing to do with sexual attraction, affection, a partnership, love, etc., male rape of another male was intended to show dominance, to humiliate, terrorize and destroy the confidence of the one attacked. So, perhaps George Washington was thinking that the man was trying to rape another man as a sign of dominance... Did they know about two members of the same sex having genuine affection for each other? I don't know.
But according to Ezekiel in the Bible, the men of in Lot's village wanted to know who the strangers were because they were selfish, arrogant, suspicious of strangers, not welcoming--- raping the 2 visitors would let them know who is boss and they likely would never return. So Ezekiel said that S&G were destroyed because of arrogance, pride, being overfed, unconcerned, and because THEY DIDN'T HELP THE POOR AND NEEDY. Jesus seems to have agreed with Ezekiel when he made reference to the story of Lot and S&G when talking about the Disciples traveling and stopping in strange towns and if they are welcomed or not. So, the TRUE Sodomites are those who support the Republicans healthcare plan, and support trump's budget. Republicans are the true Sodomites because they do not want to help the poor and needy.