by Peter Sprigg
July 24, 2008
One of the most bizarre aspects of the July 23 Congressional hearing on homosexuals in the military was the effort to read 21st-century political correctness back into American history.
Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.) insisted, “We’ve had gays in the American military from the first unit that was ever formed.” Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) echoed this astonishing claim, saying that “gays have served in every conflict, every war” this country has fought.
In fact, Shays was even more specific, noting a patriotic event in his district at which they read the names of “everyone who lost his life in the French and Indian War—some of whom were gay.”
Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) declared that allowing homosexuals to serve would be an expression of the high value Americans place on the principle of equal opportunity. He even claimed the father of our country, George Washington, as an ally who believed that “the way to the top should be open to everyone.” In context, that referred to the respect Washington had for enlisted men in relation to officers—but Sestak apparently would have us believe that Washington felt the same way about equal opportunity for homosexuals.
Actually, though, we have some very precise evidence in the historical record of what Gen. Washington thought about homosexual conduct. It can be found in his General Orders issued on Saturday, March 14, 1778, toward the end of his army’s long, bitter winter at Valley Forge. Like today, his army was at war. Like today, his army had serious problems of recruitment and retention. Perhaps, like today, there might have been some people who would have argued that his army could not afford to lose a soldier over something like his sexual conduct.
But that argument carried no water with Washington. On the 10th of March, a General Court Martial was held to try Lieut. Frederick Gotthold Enslin “for attempting to commit sodomy, with John Monhort a soldier.” Having been convicted, he was sentenced “to be dismiss’d the service with Infamy.”
That may have been the verdict of the court martial, but is there any evidence of what Washington himself thought? In fact, there is: “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 by all the Drummers and Fifers in the Army never to return . . .”
If members of Congress and homosexual activists want to argue for repeal of the existing law in order to allow homosexuals to serve openly in the military, let them make their case. But it is sheer nonsense to claim that such an action would be anything but a radical deviation from the unbroken practice of the American military throughout our country’s history.