Weems, Mason Locke Parson

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Weems, Mason Locke Parson

WEEMS, MASON LOCKE PARSON. (1759–1825). Clergyman, bookseller, writer. Born in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, on 11 October 1759, Weems studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh and returned to Maryland sometime during the Revolution. Weems went to England in 1782 seeking ordination in the Church of England, but he had to wait until 1784 for Parliament to pass an act allowing for the ordination of ministers who would not take the oath of allegiance to the king. He was finally ordained on 12 September 1784, when he returned to his home county. He quit the ministry in 1792 to act as an agent for publisher Mathew Carey, a career he followed during the rest of his life, becoming a highly successful editor and writer. His A History of the Life and Death, Virtues and Exploits of General George Washington, published in 1800, went through some seventy editions in his lifetime. It is primarily a work of fiction and was responsible for some of the iconic tales of Washington and the American Revolution. They included the highly dubious cherry tree story, which appeared in the fifth edition (1806). He wrote biographies of several other Revolutionary figures, as well as some of the first temperance books published in the United States. He died at Beaufort, South Carolina, on 23 May 1825.


Ford, Paul Leicester, and Emily Ellsword Ford Skeel, eds. Mason Locke Weems. 3 vols. New York: Richmond Mayo-Smith, 1928–1929.

Leary, Lewis. The Book-Peddling Parson. Chapel Hill, N.C.: Algonquin Books, 1984.

                              revised by Michael Bellesiles