How Bloodletting
Relates to the
Heresy of Decisional Regeneration

You have probably arrived at this article on bloodletting because of a reference in New Light Calvinist history of bloodletting. George Washington Gale's father and mother both died of bloodletting. It is ironic that his namesake also died of bloodletting.

washington's death

The death of George Washington December 14, 1799

December 14, 1799, 2AM: George Rawlins, an overseer at Mount Vernon, bled George Washington of 8 ounces of blood while waiting for Dr. James Craik to arrive. Dr. James Craik arrives at 9AM and bleeds Washington. After no improvement, at 11AM he bleeds Washington again. After no improvement, at Noon, he bleeds Washington for the last time, this time reportedly taking 32 ounces of blood. At 5:30 PM, Washington tells Craik, "Doctor, I die hard; but I am not afraid to go; I believed from my first attack that I should not survive it; my breath can not last long." Between ten and eleven at night on December 14, 1799, George Washington passed away. It was reported that he was may have been bled as much as 112 ounces of blood.

francis asbury 200
Francis Asbury 1745-1816
Was George Washington an Evangelical?
Only God knows for sure. But something of interest to evangelicals is George Washington wrote in answer to Methodist Bishop Francis Asbury's letter congratulating him on his first inaugural that he "would always strive to prove a faithful and impartial patron of genuine vital religion", a late eighteenth century way of saying he would support Christians that believed the born again experience as necessary for salvation.

Bloodletting was thoroughly discredited by the time of the Civil War. It served as another example of something universally thought to be true for thousands of years that was disproved with the empirical methods of science. Alternative explanations were being given for many things - like regeneration and saving faith. For the most outrageous example of alternative explanations in the nineteenth century, see Phrenology.

blood letting points

Recommended bloodletting locations from the Field Book Of Wound Medicine,
by Hans Von Gersdorff in 1517

The practice of bleeding patients was based on the ancient idea of restoring balance to a body by ridding it of excess humors. The four humors, or temperaments, were sanguine, choleric, melancholic, and phlegmatic. It was thought that a correct balance of the four bodily fluids that caused the four humors would bring health.


Long before the Empirical Movement of the Enlightenment... Long before the Chimera of Psychology...there was the humor theory which evolved into the temperament theory. By the Civil War, the humor theory (and bloodletting) was thoroughly discredited, being replaced in the nineteenth century by phrenology.