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George Washington Racks Up 220 Years of Late Fees At Library

samzenpus posted about 4 years ago | from the at-least-he-read dept.

Books 146

Everyone knows that George Washington couldn't tell a lie. What you probably didn't know is that he couldn't return a library book on time. From the article: "New York City's oldest library says one of its ledgers shows that the president has racked up 220 years' worth of late fees on two books he borrowed, but never returned. One of the books was the 'Law of Nations,' which deals with international relations. The other was a volume of debates from Britain's House of Commons. Both books were due on Nov. 2, 1789."

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146 comments

And he decided to pay the late fees... (5, Funny)

Doug52392 (1094585) | about 4 years ago | (#31898498)

... in $1 bills.

Re:And he decided to pay the late fees... (1)

jitendraharlalka (1702444) | about 4 years ago | (#31898724)

He must have read it somewhere in 'Laws of nations' that keeping things you borrow with you for ever is not a punishable act by law.

Re:And he decided to pay the late fees... (2, Funny)

Shakrai (717556) | about 4 years ago | (#31898778)

You've got a +5 funny right now, but you won't think this is a laughing matter when Philip Baker Hall shows up at Mount Vernon to collect the debt....

Re:And he decided to pay the late fees... (2, Insightful)

eleuthero (812560) | about 4 years ago | (#31899026)

Mount Vernon isn't the Washington estate - it is owned by a private company (they manage several historic properties - similar to the Patrimonio Nacional company in Spain and various others that own most of the royal palaces in Europe). Finding heirs to pay the "lost book fee" (I'm sure there is a maximum late fee clause somewhere) will be next to impossible and this was done only for publicity (if it came to it because of some weird public concern, the library would 'forgive' the fine... gaining more publicity).

Re:And he decided to pay the late fees... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31899118)

whoosh! [wikipedia.org]

Re:And he decided to pay the late fees... (2, Interesting)

treeves (963993) | about 4 years ago | (#31899260)

Actually I heard they don't want the fine to be paid, but they do want the books back. I imagine two library books kept past due date by Geo. Washington are worth a lot if they can be found.

Re:And he decided to pay the late fees... (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | about 4 years ago | (#31901536)

    Actually, if you read the article (I know, Slashdot, good luck there), they'd like the books back. I'm sure they would. Beyond the normal antique value, there is a higher value because of the holder of the book. They'd probably both sell at auction for a fortune.

Re:And he decided to pay the late fees... (1)

elrous0 (869638) | about 4 years ago | (#31899404)

And the library still demanded some ID before they would accept payment.

case (4, Funny)

CSHARP123 (904951) | about 4 years ago | (#31898538)

When he goes to renew his Library card next time, bring a case against him and collect lots of those Washingtons

Re:case (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31898706)

looks like he really bucked the system lol

Re:case (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31898766)

The Father of the nation: not just a slave-owner, but a thief as well! He was certainly destined to become a politician.

Re:case (5, Insightful)

eleuthero (812560) | about 4 years ago | (#31899144)

If you've read any of his writings, he was a slave owner because of a period understanding of necessity - he also freed his slaves at his wife's death (something Jefferson was unable to do because of a million dollar - modern conversion - debt).

Privately, however, Washington could -- and did -- lead by example. In his will, he arranged for all of the slaves he owned to be freed after the death of his wife, Martha. He also left instructions for the continued care and education of some of his former slaves, support and training for all of the children until they came of age, and continuing support for the elderly.

Washington on slavery [mountvernon.org]

It is sometimes helpful not to bash people who were stuck in a system that they sought to improve with as little violence as possible (This didn't end up happening in the US, but in Britain and other European countries slavery was outlawed over time without violence).

Re:case (2, Insightful)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | about 4 years ago | (#31899364)

"But, as it is, we have the wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go. Justice is in one scale, and self-preservation in the other."

Re:case (0, Flamebait)

DaScribbler (701492) | about 4 years ago | (#31899444)

Well that makes it all okay then doesn't it?

Let's just dismiss that he supported the French in suppressing slave rebellion to include funding and providing weapons. Never spoke out publicly against slavery. Signed an act that allowed hunters to enter free states to recover runaway slaves. Supported only whites to become citizens of the United States. And only supported emancipation of his slaves as long as he could find a buyer to pay him for it. As well his 'secret will' to free the slaves was to go into effect after his wife Martha died (who incidentally died after George).

George inherited 10 slaves, and by the time of his death had hundreds of them.

But hey... after enjoying the benefits of slaves his whole life; then to make them free after not only his own death, but ensured his surviving wife enjoyed the benefits as well until her death... to let them all go when you're done with them... that makes it all peachy.

Re:case (2, Insightful)

Neoprofin (871029) | about 4 years ago | (#31899820)

Never spoke out publicly against slavery. Signed an act that allowed hunters to enter free states to recover runaway slaves. Supported only whites to become citizens of the United States.

On this point he and the rest of the founding fathers had the choice between the ugly reality of slavery and half of the colonies not signing on to the constitution or agreeing to the fight for independence.

The result of the revolutions failure could have been Canada and they could have all been freed 20 years early, or it could have been apartheid South Africa. If you're going to Monday morning quarterback at least consider that this world of black and white you live in is often complicated by circumstance and in this case not even hindsight really clears things up.

Slavery is wrong, everyone gets that, but before before you lash a man for not trying hard enough to solve the injustices of the world consider the limitations to their power. He never had the authority or the support to rid America of slavery and any attempt to do so would have undermined the few things he could enact.

Re:case (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31901316)

Also the fact that at the same time there was more whites in slavery then blacks.

Re:case (1)

dwye (1127395) | about 4 years ago | (#31900160)

> George inherited 10 slaves, and by the time of his death had hundreds of them.

Because he married a rich (much richer than him) widow, with lots of slaves. The reason that he freed his wife's slaves after her death was that he couldn't legally do that before her death, since most were hers or mostly hers (in the cases where the slaves were born after his marriage).

> And only supported emancipation of his slaves as long as he could find a buyer to pay him for it.

Pardon? You seem to have skipped a clause or two, here.

Re:case (1)

Jhon (241832) | about 4 years ago | (#31900488)

Well that makes it all okay then doesn't it?

Why do so many look at OUR OWN history with our own contemporary values but not that of other cultures? We look at the damage done to native Americans by our ancestors for example -- but fail to ever talk about the slavery endemic to many of the native cultures at the time. We fail to talk about the cannibalism and human sacrifice that was frequently practiced as well. Had history not progressed the way it did, how many people would have been enslaved? Hunted? Killed? Eaten? But that would just be "all ok then"?

If we're going to turn a blind eye (as we should) and make observations about a given society and culture in a given time in which they lived -- and judge them by their own standards -- we should do the same to our own ancestors.

On a side note (and not an attempt to justify slavery, but to put the USs part of it in perspective), I suggest you look at the average life expectancy of a slave in colonial and the post federal US and compare it to the life expectancy of slaves in the French and Spanish controlled "Americas".

Re:case (1)

DustoneGT (969310) | about 4 years ago | (#31901004)

The founding fathers as slave holders argument is a variant of Reductio ad Hitlerum.

It's the absurd idea that anything Hitler did is automatically bad, for example the Nazis created Volkswagen, so therefore VW is evil.

In the case of the founding fathers, the fact that they were slave owners is supposed to mean that everything they did was bad and should be changed. Often it's used to justify the illegal behavior of current politicians because the old rules they are breaking were written by slave holders. The next time you encounter this argument, apply the same standard to Bill Clinton and watch them take an ideological 180 degree turn. Sometimes they switch from slave ownership to using the behavior of George Bush (senior or junior, take your pick) as justification. Inform them at that point that you are not a Republican and then the real olympic backpedaling begins.

Re:case (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31901752)

Except for the fact that other contemporaries did act against slavery, In Latin America not only did Simon Bolivar free his own slaves but he actually liberated those from the countries he freed, to his own political detriment.

So you are judging them for the standards of their era.

So... (4, Insightful)

TheSpoom (715771) | about 4 years ago | (#31898550)

Where are the books now?

Re:So... (4, Informative)

Eevee (535658) | about 4 years ago | (#31898732)

If we go to a better news source [bbc.co.uk], we see that

Sadly for fans of 18th-Century political literature, they appear to have vanished.

Re:So... (3, Funny)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | about 4 years ago | (#31898948)

If we go to a better news source [bbc.co.uk], we see that

Sadly for fans of 18th-Century political literature, they appear to have vanished.

BBC?! So, you're implying the British took them?

Re:So... (2, Interesting)

eleuthero (812560) | about 4 years ago | (#31899158)

It makes sense - they did invade and take over DC and parts of Virginia in the War of 1812. ;)

on that note: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31900986)

A tribute to the war of 1812: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ety2FEHQgwM

Admittedly a Canadian band, but close enough I guess. I actually served in the regiment that set fire to the white house during the war, not during the war of course. But interesting history. Never count the brits out of their ability to out speculate American news outlets. Something like "We could neither confirm nor deny allegations that Dick Cheney is an alien that feeds exclusively off of Chihuahua anuses" would be right at home on some of their tabloids.

Re:So... (1)

Neoprofin (871029) | about 4 years ago | (#31899862)

Wait, so the BBC is a better news source because they're willing to speculate in print what everyone already assumed? Did it really need to be explicitly stated that either no one knows where they are or whoever does isn't talking?

Re:So... (1)

lorenlal (164133) | about 4 years ago | (#31898762)

Ask John Adams... He either:
1) borrowed them from Washington while VP
or
2) found them when he moved into the White House... Assuming Washington brought the books with him when the place was completed.

Re:So... (1)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | about 4 years ago | (#31899736)

Washington never lived there, and the books were borrowed from the NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY, when New York was the capital.

Re:So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31898812)

He's not telllling!

Re:So... (3, Funny)

batquux (323697) | about 4 years ago | (#31899236)

And what happened to privacy? What would Washington think about the library publishing what books he borrowed and how much he owes in fees?

Re:So... (3, Funny)

negRo_slim (636783) | about 4 years ago | (#31899284)

Too shay.

Re:So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31899446)

Crimes should not be private.

Re:So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31899554)

Do you think that when they asked George Washington for ID that he just whipped out a quarter?

Re:So... (2, Insightful)

Manfre (631065) | about 4 years ago | (#31901252)

And what happened to privacy? What would Washington think about the library publishing what books he borrowed and how much he owes in fees?

Nothing, he's dead.

Aha! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31898564)

That explains it! He wasn't saying

George Washington: I cannot tell a lie

He was, in fact, saying

George Washington: I cannot pay a fine

That explains so much!

Just wait until the year 3000! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31898598)

There will be an even bigger article on Slashdot 30.4001 Memorial Edition.

Re:More slashdot fail (1)

b4dc0d3r (1268512) | about 4 years ago | (#31900124)

"[H]e couldn't return a library book on time" is an awfully broad stroke based on "two books he borrowed, but never returned." How many other books did he borrow and return on time? If you can't answer that, we have two books out of an unknown number, which could be 2/2 (100%) or 2/2000 (suggesting he actually could return things on time).

Is logic really that hard?

Additionally, he was probably busy doing Presidential things since this was the first year of his Presidency. And the ledger says "president", not "President", so how do we know which president it was? Look at the original Constitution - they loved capitalizing everything, and they went out of their way to lower-case this one. A circumstantial case if ever there was.

Slashdot: "News for nerds"
Fark: "It's not news, it's Fark.com"

So, how many History nerds are reading Slashdot instead of ThingsThatUsedToBeNews.com?

It's a clue. (4, Funny)

Toonol (1057698) | about 4 years ago | (#31898676)

Get Nick Cage on the case; those two books no doubt contain directions to the Illuminati's treasure stored in the hidden fortress of the Masons.

Re:It's a clue. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31898772)

He's too busy working on "National Treasure 3: The Quest for Another House." ...Seriously. He foreclosed.

Re:It's a clue. (1)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | about 4 years ago | (#31899754)

National Treasure 3:Time to Kill Some Wall Street Bankers?

Re:It's a clue. (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31901312)

No, you silly billy. We're talking about the Illuminati, not the Knights Templar.

Re:It's a clue. (1)

megamerican (1073936) | about 4 years ago | (#31899036)

Mount Vernon, September 25, 1798. From: George Washington To: George Snyder

I have heard much of the nefarious, and dangerous plan, and doctrines of the Illuminati, but never saw the Book until you were pleased to send it to me.9 The same causes which have prevented my acknowledging the receipt of your letter have prevented my reading the Book, hitherto; namely, the multiplicity of matters which pressed upon me before, and the debilitated state in which I was left after, a severe fever had been removed. And which allows me to add little more now, than thanks for your kind wishes and favourable sentiments, except to correct an error you have run into, of my Presiding over the English lodges in this Country. The fact is, I preside over none, nor have I been in one more than once or twice, within the last thirty years. I believe notwithstanding, that none of the Lodges in this Country are contaminated with the principles ascribed to the Society of the Illuminati.

The book he is referring to is Proofs of a Conspiracy [amazon.com] by John Robison

Mount Vernon, October 24, 1798. From: George Washington To: George Snyder

It was not my intention to doubt that, the Doctrines of the Illuminati, and principles of Jacobinism had not spread in the United States. On the contrary, no one is more truly satisfied of this fact than I am.

The idea that I meant to convey, was, that I did not believe that the Lodges of Free Masons in this Country had, as Societies, endeavoured to propagate the diabolical tenets of the first, or pernicious principles of the latter (if they are susceptible of seperation). That Individuals of them may have done it, or that the founder, or instrument employed to found, the Democratic Societies in the United States, may have had these objects; and actually had a seperation of the People from their Government in view, is too evident to be questioned.

My occupations are such, that but little leisure is allowed me to read News Papers, or Books of any kind; the reading of letters, and preparing answers, absorb much of my time. With respect,

Note: Although in the 2nd letter he says he is "satisfied," meaning he agrees that the Illuminati and their doctrines have made their way to the United States.

Source: [loc.gov] Search for illuminati

White Guilt (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31898740)

Is this what they mean by white guilt? Failure to return library books?

Re:White Guilt (3, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | about 4 years ago | (#31898864)

White guilt means guilt over doing what the other people would have done if they were in our forefathers shoes.

Of course every non-white superpower throughout history (the Mongols, the Persians, the Arabs, the Chinese, the Japanese, the Indians) was a beacon of human rights and good will towards men. It's only the evil European powers that exploited their position in the world towards their own ends.....

Re:White Guilt (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31899014)

No. Whit guilt is the willing imposition of reverse apartheid on one's own race, supposedly as a means of penance for the sins of people that died long ago and to which I feel little to no connection with.

TEA Party Loots Local Libraries in (1, Flamebait)

Snarkalicious (1589343) | about 4 years ago | (#31898824)

3...2...

Re:TEA Party Loots Local Libraries in (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31899256)

Why would they do that? Are public libraries responsible for spending the money of Americans who don't even exist yet? Fail!

Re:TEA Party Loots Local Libraries in (1)

Snarkalicious (1589343) | about 4 years ago | (#31899512)

Public funding/socialism/'Founding Fathers'/NOBAMA is bailing out Salman Rushdie etc etc. (BTW...if my nick escaped your notice...)

Re:TEA Party Loots Local Libraries in (1)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | about 4 years ago | (#31899808)

But Salman Rushdie hates Muslims (well, at least wacky Muslims think so)...I'd think the tea partiers would love him. Plus, 'Rush' is in his name!

Re:TEA Party Loots Local Libraries in (1)

Foobar of Borg (690622) | about 4 years ago | (#31900098)

Plus, 'Rush' is in his name!

No, No! His name is Rushdie, in other words, Rush-Die. The Tea Partiers definitely wouldn't like that!

Quirk Books Already on It (2, Funny)

XPulga (1242) | about 4 years ago | (#31898868)


After "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" and "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter", I'm pretty sure Quirk Books must already be working on a tale that involves Mr. Bookman (from Seinfeld, season 3) travelling back in time, terminator-style, to charge late fees on George Washington. That modifies the course of history. Last scene on the book, Bookman is back to the 20th century and the country formerly known as USA is now part of Canada. In the place of the Statue of Liberty, a huge green statue of Celine Dion greets the New Yorkers.

Re:Quirk Books Already on It (1)

Tumbleweed (3706) | about 4 years ago | (#31899430)

I'm pretty sure Quirk Books must already be working on a tale that involves Mr. Bookman (from Seinfeld, season 3) travelling back in time, terminator-style, to charge late fees on George Washington.

Sheesh, what a waste of a working time machine! Just go back a bit farther in time and get the books back before they're overdue. People were waiting for those books to return, you know.

National Debt repaid with invention of timetravel (0)

Orga (1720130) | about 4 years ago | (#31898900)

While experimenting with Toyota brakes NASA inadvertently opened a wormhole to the days of George Washington. After bringing him to present day America, handing him a fine for his late books he jumped back through the wormhole and promptly paid his two day late fee. With the magic of compound interest over the years the repayment of the fee solved the present day national debt crisis the was threatening to destroy the nation. Thanks George you saved us again!

Re:National Debt repaid with invention of timetrav (1)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | about 4 years ago | (#31899868)

Nah, $2 compounded at 5% for 221 years only gives $96,000 today (even a 10% yearly ROI would only net $2.8 billion). Can't blame the debt crisis on THAT George W.

Just Spoke to George... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31898908)

He says he turned in them in on Nov 1st, 1789. Please send someone to check the shelves for the books.

Re:Just Spoke to George... (1)

eleuthero (812560) | about 4 years ago | (#31899222)

My problem is when I turn them in, they are left in the bin... someone else comes along and grabs them... and then I have to pay the fine (It has happened before and would happen again but for turning them into the over-worked clerks directly and waiting for the beep of each book being logged in).

The library went to a lot of trouble... (3, Interesting)

operagost (62405) | about 4 years ago | (#31899030)

The library went to a lot of trouble to prove that their records from the 18th century are probably a bit inaccurate. It could have been as simple as a star-struck librarian forgetting to update the register.

Re:The library went to a lot of trouble... (1)

mbone (558574) | about 4 years ago | (#31899282)

The library went to a lot of trouble to prove that their records from the 18th century are probably a bit inaccurate.

Got them in the press, didn't it ?

Re:The library went to a lot of trouble... (1)

moosesocks (264553) | about 4 years ago | (#31899918)

The library went to a lot of trouble to prove that their records from the 18th century are probably a bit inaccurate. It could have been as simple as a star-struck librarian forgetting to update the register.

Maybe, but probably not. [boingboing.net] They found the rest of the set of books, minus the volumes that Washington borrowed. I suppose it could be a coincidence, but it would appear that Mr. Washington's estate owes the NYPL a great deal of money, and their book back.

Re:The library went to a lot of trouble... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31900444)

Maybe, but probably not. [boingboing.net] They found the rest of the set of books, minus the volumes that Washington borrowed. I suppose it could be a coincidence, but it would appear that Mr. Washington's estate owes the NYPL a great deal of money, and their book back.

Sadly for them, the will already passed probate and it's too late to press their claim.

In related news (1)

idontgno (624372) | about 4 years ago | (#31899096)

an arrest warrant [go.com] was issued for noted military leader, statesman, father of the nation, and library scofflaw George Washington.

Re:In related news (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31900016)

an arrest warrant [go.com] was issued for noted military leader, statesman, father of the nation, and library scofflaw George Washington.

noted separatist, terrorist and traitor. Fixed that for ya, eh?

Re:In related news (0, Troll)

icannotthinkofaname (1480543) | about 4 years ago | (#31901434)

No, no, idontgno is correct. America won the war, therefore, America gets to write the history of the war.

If America had lost, you'd have something there.

Not quite so late, but... (3, Interesting)

aonyx (629229) | about 4 years ago | (#31899128)

I was related to Mary Coyle Chase (author of Harvey). After she died in 1981 I helped clear out some things from her house. We found a book which had been checked out of the Denver Public Library in 1929. It was really fun returning it. I asked how much the fine was. The person at the circulation desk called the head librarian, and after a good laugh, they said there wouldn't be a fine.

Re:Not quite so late, but... (4, Funny)

Chas (5144) | about 4 years ago | (#31899330)

I was related to Mary Coyle Chase

Technically, you still are.

Re:Not quite so late, but... (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | about 4 years ago | (#31900044)

I was related to Mary Coyle Chase (author of Harvey) after she died in 1981

Miss that one period, and this takes on a very strange pallor. There must be an interesting story there.

Other GW failings (1)

interval1066 (668936) | about 4 years ago | (#31899212)

He was often heard to ask total strangers whom he'd just met if he could borrow enough cash to purchase a hamburger and would promise to gladly pay them back on Tuesday.

US Federal Debt (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31899218)

Now we know why the US Federal Debt is so high. That fine is probably still being carried by the Office of the President.

controlling the flow of media (0, Offtopic)

circletimessquare (444983) | about 4 years ago | (#31899234)

is a fool's errand

let it go wherever it wants, for free, and profit off the ancillary revenue streams of such an attitude

the alternative approach assumes that you have more control than you can ever have, even theoretically

even our founding fathers were media "pirates"

obligatory McCoy quote (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31899462)

He'd dead, Jim!

Actually he did return them... (1)

kybur (1002682) | about 4 years ago | (#31900962)

To save space, the library used a VARCHAR(16) for the full name, so every time George returned something, there was an buffer overflow, and the database had to be fixed by hand. Seems like twice, they just forgot.

How much does he owe? (1)

MaWeiTao (908546) | about 4 years ago | (#31900996)

We have an article on two books 220 years late, references to late fees, but no estimate on what George Washington would owe. Without that figure this is like a joke without the punchline.

sp (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31901012)

On similar lines Winston Churchill owed Rs 13 to club in India http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8418330.stm

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