Excerpts from "The Life of George Washington with Curious Anecdotes equally honorable to himself and exemplary to his Young Countrymen by M. L. Weems, Formerly Rector of Mount Vernon Parish - Ninth Edition (1809)" - published in the May, 1996 newsletter of Historic Prince William.
"Pa, said George very seriously (to his father) do I ever tell lies?"
"No, George, I thank God you do not, my son; and I rejoice in the hope you never will. At least, you shall never, from me, have cause to be guilty of so shameful a thing. Many parents, indeed, even compel their children to this vile practice, by barbarously beating them for every little fault; hence, on the next offense, the little terrified creature slips out a lie! just to escape the rod. But as to yourself, George, you know I have always told you, and now tell you again, that whenever by accident you do anything wrong, which must often be the case, as you are but a poor little boy yet, without experience or knowledge, never tell a falsehood to conceal it; but come bravely up, my son, like a little man, and tell me of it; and instead of beating you, George, I will but the more honour and love you for it, my dear."
The following anecdote is a case in point. It is too valuable to be lost, and too true to be doubted; for it was communicated to me by the same excellent lady to whom I am indebted for the last (whom Weems earlier identified as "an aged lady, who was a distant relative, and when a girl spent much of her time in the family.")
"When George," said she, "was about six years old, he was made the wealthy master of a hatchet! of which, like most little boys, he was immoderately fond, and was constantly going about chopping every thing that came in his way. One day, in the garden, where he often amused himself hacking his mother's pea sticks, he unluckily tried the edge of his hatchet on the body of a beautiful young English cherry tree, which he barked so terribly, that I don't believe the tree ever got the better of it. The next morning the old gentleman finding out what had befallen his tree, which, by the by, was a great favorite, came into the house, and with much warmth, asked for the mischievous author, declaring at the same time, that he would not have taken five guineas for his tree. Nobody could tell him anything about it. Presently George and his hatchet made their appearance. George, said his father, do you know who killed that beautiful little cherry-tree yonder in the garden?
This was a tough question; and George staggered under it for a moment; but quickly recovered himself; and looking at his father, with a sweet face of youth brightened with the inexpressible charm of all conquering truth, he bravely cried out, "I can't tell a lie, Pa; you know I can't tell a lie. I did cut it with my hatchet." "run into my arms you dearest boy," cried his father in transports, "run to my arms; Glad am I, George, that you killed my tree; for you have paid me for it a thousand fold. Such an act of heroism in my son, is more worth than a thousand trees, though blossomed with silver, and their fruits of purest gold."