George Washington As A Bad Guy? It's As Crazy As It Sounds

Ubisoft broke with tradition earlier today by announcing that its first substantial Assassin's Creed III downloadable content won't be an extension of the main game's story. Rather, it'll be an exploration of what would happen if George Washington hadn't done one of the most extraordinary things in human history and given up his vast powers at the end of the Revolutionary War.

It sounds crazy. Maybe even blasphemous to staunch American patriots, who have long held up Washington as some kind of perfect man, the ultimate union of military commander and civic leader.

But then, to crazy people, it doesn't sound crazy at all. Because they've been saying Washington was fishy for years.

While historical record has it that Washington led American forces to victory in America's War of Independence, and then became the newly-created United States' first President, there's long been a fascinating and at times hilarious belief held by some that he was mixed up in all kinds of shady dealings.

How can one of the most respected and well-regarded men in not just American but all of modern history possibly be suspected of being a bad guy? Even by nutcases?

Easy. Because he was a Mason. Cue the tinfoil hat brigade.

Initiated into the order in 1752, Washington was one of the most prominent members of the society for the remainder of his life, to the point where upon retiring from public office he was named a Master in the Virginia charter of Alexandria Lodge No. 22. (where he's still listed as their Charter Master).

Because Washington and many other prominent founding fathers, such as Benjamin Franklin, were all members of the order, various conspiracy theories have arisen over the years - fuelled by the theorised presence of Masonic symbols on things like US dollar bills - all suggesting that, behind the scenes, these guys were up to no good.

It's a vague conspiracy, and not even a very entertaining one, because aside from the fact he really was a Mason, there's not much to suggest Washington actually did anything wrong as a result.

Things get more entertaining when you tighten the tinfoil hat and dig a little deeper into the kind of territory the Assassin's Creed series loves best: the point where history, conspiracy and fiction meet.

See, Washington was a Mason. There's some who believe that the Masons and another secret order, the Illuminati, are in cahoots, but there are others - backed up by a quote from Washington himself, who describes their efforts as "diabolical" - who believed they were in open conflict.

The Illuminati Washington is rumoured to have referenced is, of course, not the same thing we associate with the word now. Back in the 18th century, it was an organised and known group, operating out of Germany, until it was shut down by both political and religious bodies for being treasonous and heretical.

While being similar in structure to the Freemasons - indeed, many of its earlier members drew from both groups - the Illuminati were made up of more radical thinkers who more openly toyed with the idea of things like a "new world order", which is just the kind of thinking that gets a group outlawed by strict German authorities.

It's into this dovetailing of history, myth and fiction that Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson's The Illuminatus! Trilogy got even wackier than Ubisoft's "Washington as Napoleon" premise. In their tale, Adam Weishaupt - the founder of the Illuminati - kills his Masonic enemy George Washington and takes his place as President.


Whether Ubisoft took this kind of madness as their inspiration for the new DLC or whether they just wanted to revel in the historical fantasy of turning a "good" buy "bad", it doesn't matter, as a sucker for alternate histories I can't wait to get my hands on it.

I mean, when you look at the historical precedence for guys like Washington, it's grim reading. From Caesar to Napoleon, when a military commander also gets his hands on the government, the lure of absolute power usually proves too great to resist. For Washington to have done the right thing, and still end up as a villain in not one but two major pieces of entertainment, may seem a little unfair, but then, you can always balance it out by playing a little Day of the Tentacle.


    what? No mention of Washington's dope smoking? For shame!


      Just because I love this song. haha

    Raaar raaar America!: the article.

    Given the Swine burned down my ancestral family farm during his terrorist revolt to not pay tax because my ancestors wouldn't support his bandit army - screw George Washington, I look forward to the game.

    Not to be a nit-picker, but Napoleon came after the American Revolution.

    Please refrain from posting 'murika propaganda here in the future please. Oh wait I just read the author, I'm guessing we will see more of this rubbish then.

    Jesus, what an absolute load of bollocks. Goddamned ignorant propaganda. Do Americans even realise the rest of the world thinks they're a joke? Including their 'perfect man' Washington.

    To be fair, and when I did a tour of Boston this year, and the guide mentioned that the patriots (Washington, Revere, etc.) basically fabricated every grievance they had against the English because they didn't want to pay tax. For example, they claimed British soldiers killed four Americans in cold blood, and even though they knew it was self defense, and and the commander begged them not to make his men shoot them.

    I get why American's love Washington, and but he was certainly flawed.

    Gee I hope Unisoft stick it to some of the MERIKA brigade in the canon version of the next game.

    It could have been a close run thing - after the war there were many who wanted to install Washington as effectively an emperor. To his credit, Washington refused, and even refused some of the more "Roman" trappings they wanted to foist on him. The usual theory is that after the war the situation was very dicey in the US, so they needed a figure to rally around and help bind the new nation together - Washington was the man for the job.

    Oh No! An point of view other than from Americas' perspective. How dare they.

    Like American World War 2 documentaries, where apparently the U.S.A. was the only country who fought in the war...

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