Historical Events  People
George Washington

A hatchet job

Are people lying when they tell the famous story of George Washington telling his father "I cannot tell a lie"? Not exactly - it's one of those feel-good stories passed down through the generations which seems to be an acceptable "little white lie", to extend the convoluted metaphor to breaking point.

The story is young George received a hatchet as a gift, presumably this being an entirely normal thing to give 6 year olds back in the day. His fathers cherry tree then became damaged by ... a hatchet. So when pops has a little word with innocent little George, instead of the usual "it must have been the tooth fairy" yarn he was expecting, instead he immediately got a full confession with the immortal line "I cannot tell a lie".

It was actually added as a fabrication in a biography by Mason Locke Weems, a minister and bookseller shortly after Washington's death.