Education Reform

George Washington Was First to Mandate Vaccinations

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To all those patriots out there who are “resisting” mandates for vaccines and masks, please read this.

George Washington was not only “First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen,” he was also first to impose a vaccine mandate. A reader called “Quikwrit” sent the following comment, which I fact-checked. It is true.

The United States Supreme Court has twice ruled that states and school districts have the constitutional right to mandate vaccinations, rulings that also apply to masks — and those who would like to see those rulings overturned had better think twice because those rulings are also the basis for states having the power to regulate abortions: If state authority to mandate vaccinations is overturned, so is state authority to regulate abortions.

The key Supreme Court ruling that recognizes the authority of states to mandate vaccinations is Jacobsen v. Massachusetts. In this case Pastor Henning Jacobsen had a previous bad reaction to a vaccination and therefore refused the state’s mandate that he and his son be vaccinated because he believed that his family had a hereditary danger from vaccinations and that he also believed that vaccinations caused disease. The State of Massachusetts fined Jacobsen for his refusal to be vaccinated, so he took Massachusetts to court, and his case went all the way to the U. S. Supreme Court. The Court ruled in favor of the state, pointing out that “in every well ordered society charged with the duty of conserving the safety of its members, the rights of the individual in respect to his personal liberty may at times, under the pressure of great dangers, be subjected to such restraint, to be enforced by reasonable regulations, as the safety of the general public may demand” — adding that “real liberty for all could not exist under the operation of a principle which recognizes the right of each individual person to use his own [liberty], whether in respect of his person or his property, regardless of the injury that may be done to others.” Furthermore, the Court ruled that mandatory vaccinations are “necessary in order to protect the public health and secure the public safety”. The Supreme Court reaffirmed that ruling again in the case of Zucht v. King in which the Court ruled that a school system can refuse admission to any student who fails to receive a required vaccination.

George Washington mandated vaccinations

The practice of mandating vaccinations for the Common Good of all Americans is part of America’s tradition from the very beginning: General George Washington, The Father of America, issued the order on Feb. 5, 1777, that mandated vaccinations for all Revolutionary War soldiers and any citizen wanting to join the Revolutionary Army. General Washington declared in writing that “I have determined that troops shall be inoculated. This expedient may be attended with some inconveniences and some disadvantages, but I trust its consequences will have the most happy effects. Necessity not only authorizes but seems to require this measure, for should the disorder infect the army in the natural way and rage with its virulence we should have more to dread from it than from the sword of the enemy.”

General Washington, who had himself suffered from smallpox as a teenager, strongly believed in the effectiveness of vaccination and in 1776 had persuaded his wife to be vaccinated. Back then, vaccination was nothing like the painless pinprick of today’s vaccinations with vaccines produced on germ-free labs — back then vaccination was painful because it required taking a sharp metal “scratcher” on which there was smallpox virus gotten from someone else’s smallpox sores and scratching those viruses into your skin.

General Washington mandated vaccination because he and America’s other Founding Fathers believed that Americans should always act first for the Common Good of every other American, not for their personal interest — and America’s Founding Fathers put that belief in the Common Good being first above individual interests in writing in the Preamble of our Constitution.

I googled “George Washington inoculation” and up popped a Washington Post article published on August 26, 2021, written by Gillian Brockell.

It begins:

On a trip to Barbados in his late teens, George Washington caught one of the luckiest breaks of his life: Smallpox.
It probably didn’t seem like good fortune just then. It was a deadly disease, and even survivors suffered miserably from fever, vomiting, headaches and pus-filled pox. But after convalescing for a month at a rented house, young Washington had lifelong immunity — a rare gift at the time for a Virginian, and one that would come in handy decades later.


By 1776, he was the commander in chief of the Continental Army in the Revolutionary War, and his protection from smallpox was a factor in his getting the job. When an outbreak of smallpox devastated the young nation, he made a bold decision to require his troops to be immunized.
[Ben Franklin’s bitter regret that he didn’t immunize his 4-year-old son against smallpox]
It was an act that has been repeated by presidents and military leaders throughout American history, including Monday, when the Defense Department announced it would require service members to get a coronavirus vaccine.


George Washington knew the threat smallpox posed to the new nation, calling it “the most dangerous Enemy” in a July 1776 letter to John Hancock. He described how, as recruits joined up, “I have been particularly attentive to the least Symptoms of the small Pox” and so far they had quarantined anyone with symptoms so soon “as not only to prevent any Communication [contagion], but any Alarm or Apprehension it might give in the Camp.” If people worried smallpox was spreading in the camp, they might abandon their posts, he was saying.


In one early action in Boston, where the disease was raging, Washington sent a force comprising 1,000 men who had previously had smallpox. In another, an invasion of Quebec was called off because so many of the soldiers had become ill.


By early 1777, Washington knew a more dramatic measure was needed. A method of immunization called inoculation had existed in the colonies since the 1720s, but it was controversial. With inoculation, pus from an infected person was gathered, either in a small vial or by passing a string through one of the sores, and then passed through an open cut in a healthy subject. The subject became ill with smallpox, though generally with a milder case. When they recovered, they were immune.

Critics argued it was playing God, and it was banned in several colonies. Though the death rate was much lower than “natural” infection, it was still dangerous and patients did occasionally die. (The much safer vaccination method using cowpox — the word vaccine derives from the Latin word for cow — would not be developed until 1796.) Plus, because the idea had come from an enslaved African, some alleged it was a trick to get White masters to kill themselves.
[Enslaved African Onesimus taught Cotton Mather how to inoculate against smallpox]
 But inoculation had its supporters, too. Benjamin Franklin supported it constantly in his Philadelphia newspaper. John Adams went through it in 1764; his wife and children followed suit in the summer of 1776. Even Martha Washington underwent the procedure that summer, further convincing her husband of its efficacy.

Thus, anti-vaxxers are on the wrong side of history.

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