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George Washington ( – December 14, 1799) was the commander of the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783) and the first President of the United Statesmarker of America (1789–1797). For his central role in the formation of the United States, he is often referred to as the father of his country.

The Continental Congress appointed Washington commander-in-chief of the American revolutionary forces in 1775. The following year, he forced the British out of Boston, lost New York City, and crossed the Delaware River in New Jersey, defeating the surprised enemy units later that year. As a result of his strategy, Revolutionary forces captured the two main British combat armies at Saratogamarker and Yorktown. Negotiating with Congress, the colonial states, and French allies, he held together a tenuous army and a fragile nation amid the threats of disintegration and failure. Following the end of the war in 1783, King George III asked what Washington would do next and was told of rumors that he'd return to his farm; this prompted the king to state, "If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world." Washington did return to private life and retired to his plantation at Mount Vernonmarker.

He presided over the Philadelphia Convention that drafted the United States Constitution in 1787 because of general dissatisfaction with the Articles of Confederation. Washington became President of the United States in 1789 and established many of the customs and usages of the new government's executive department. He sought to create a nation capable of surviving in a world torn asunder by war between Britain and France. His unilateral Proclamation of Neutrality of 1793 provided a basis for avoiding any involvement in foreign conflicts. He supported plans to build a strong central government by funding the national debt, implementing an effective tax system, and creating a national bank. Washington avoided the temptation of war and a decade of peace with Britain began with the Jay Treaty in 1795; he used his prestige to get it ratified over intense opposition from the Jeffersonians. Although never officially joining the Federalist Party, he supported its programs and was its inspirational leader. Washington's farewell address was a primer on republican virtue and a stern warning against partisanship, sectionalism, and involvement in foreign wars.

Washington was awarded the very first Congressional Gold Medal with the Thanks of Congress.

Washington died in 1799, and the funeral oration delivered by Henry Lee stated that of all Americans, he was "first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen". Washington has been consistently ranked by scholars as one of the greatest U.S. Presidents.

Early life and education

George Washington was born on the first child of Augustine Washington and his second wife, Mary Ball Washington, on their Pope's Creek Estatemarker near present-day Colonial Beachmarker in Westmoreland County, Virginiamarker. His father had four children by his first wife, Jane Butler: two died young, but two sons survived (Lawrence, born circa 1718, and Augustine, born circa 1720), making George the third son, but very much younger. Moving to Ferry Farm in Stafford Countymarker at age six, George was educated in the home by his father and eldest brother. The growth of tobacco as a commodity in Virginia could be measured by the number of slaves imported to cultivate it. When Washington was born, the population of the colony was 50 percent black, mostly enslaved Africans and African Americans.

In his youth, Washington worked as a surveyor, and acquired what would become invaluable knowledge of the terrain around his native Colony of Virginia. His eldest brother's marriage into the powerful Fairfax family gained young George the patronage of Thomas Fairfax, 6th Lord Fairfax of Cameron, the Proprietor of the Northern Neck, which encompassed some five million acres. In late July 1749, immediately following the establishment of the town of Alexandria, Virginiamarker along the Potomac River, 17-year old George was commissioned as the first Surveyor of the newly created Culpeper County, Virginiamarker in the interior of the colony. This appointment was undoubtedly secured at the behest of Lord Fairfax and his cousin (and resident land agent) William Fairfax of Belvoir, who sat on the Governor's Council.

Career

Washington embarked upon a career as a planter, which historians defined as those who held 20 or more slaves. In 1748 he was invited to help survey Lord Fairfax's lands west of the Blue Ridge. In 1749, he was appointed to his first public office, surveyor of newly created Culpeper Countymarker. Through his half-brother, Lawrence Washington, he became interested in the Ohio Company, which aimed to exploit Western lands. In 1751, George and his half-brother traveled to Barbadosmarker, staying at Bush Hill House, hoping for an improvement in Lawrence's tuberculosis. This was the only time George Washington traveled outside what is now the United States. After Lawrence's death in 1752, George inherited part of his estate and took over some of Lawrence's duties as adjutant of the colony.
In late 1752, Virginia's newly arrived Governor, Robert Dinwiddie, divided command of the militia into four regions and George applied for one of the commands, his only qualifications being his zeal and being the younger brother of the former adjutant.Washington was appointed a district adjutant general in the Virginia militia in 1752, which appointed him Major Washington at the age of 20. He was charged with training the militia in the quarter assigned to him. At age 21, in Fredericksburgmarker, Washington became a Master Mason in the organization of Freemasons, a fraternal organization that was a lifelong influence.

In December 1753, Washington was asked by Governor Robert Dinwiddie of Virginia to carry a British ultimatum to the French Canadians on the Ohiomarker frontier. Washington assessed French military strength and intentions, and delivered the message to the French Canadians at Fort Le Boeufmarker in present day Waterford, Pennsylvaniamarker. The message, which went unheeded, called for the French Canadians to abandon their development of the Ohio country. The two colonial powers were heading toward worldwide conflict. Washington's report on the affair was widely read on both sides of the Atlantic.

French and Indian War (Seven Years War)

In 1754, Dinwiddie commissioned Washington a Lieutenant Colonel and ordered him to lead an expedition to Fort Duquesnemarker to drive out the French Canadians. With his American Indian allies led by Tanacharison, Washington and his troops ambushed a French Canadian scouting partymarker of some 30 men, led by Joseph Coulon de Jumonville. Washington and his troops were overwhelmed at Fort Necessitymarker by a larger and better positioned French Canadian and Indian force, in what was Washington's only military surrender. The terms of surrender included a statement that Washington had assassinated Jumonville after the ambush. Washington could not read French, and, unaware of what it said, signed his name. Released by the French Canadians, Washington returned to Virginia, where he was cleared of blame for the defeat, but resigned because he did not like the new arrangement of the Virginia Militia.

In 1755, Washington was an aide to British General Edward Braddock on the ill-fated Monongahela expedition. This was a major effort to retake the Ohio Country. While Braddock was killed and the expedition ended in disaster, Washington distinguished himself as the Hero of the Monongahela. While Washington's role during the battle has been debated, biographer Joseph Ellis asserts that Washington rode back and forth across the battlefield, rallying the remnant of the British and Virginian forces to a retreat. Subsequent to this action, Washington was given a difficult frontier command in the Virginia mountains, and was rewarded by being promoted to colonel and named commander of all Virginia forces.

In 1758, Washington participated as a Brigadier General in the Forbes expedition that prompted French evacuation of Fort Duquesnemarker, and British establishment of Pittsburghmarker. Later that year, Washington resigned from active military service and spent the next sixteen years as a Virginia planter and politician.

Militia versus regular army

As a colonial militia officer, albeit a high ranking one, Washington was acutely conscious of the disparity between officers in the militia and those in the British Army (the Regulars). His eldest brother Lawrence had been fortunate to be awarded a Commission in the Regulars, as "Captain in a Regiment of Foot", in summer 1740, when the British Army raised a new Regiment (the 61st Foot, known as Gooch's American Regiment) in the Colonies, for service in the West Indies during the War of Jenkins' Ear. Each colony was allowed to appoint its own Company officers—the Captains and Lieutenants—and signed Commissions were distributed by Colonel William Blakeney to the various governors. Fifteen years later, when General Braddock arrived in Virginia in 1755 with two regiments of Regulars (the 44th and 48th Foot), Washington sought to obtain a Commission, but none were available for purchase. Rather than serve as a militia lieutenant colonel, where he would be outranked by more junior officers in the Regulars, Washington chose to serve in a private capacity as aide-de-camp to the General: as an aide he could command British Regulars. Following Braddock's defeat, the British Parliament decided in November 1755 to create a new Royal American Regiment of Foot—later renamed King's Royal Rifle Corps -- but, unlike the earlier "American Regiment" of 1740–42, all of the officers were recruited in England and Europe in early 1756.

Between the wars



On January 6, 1759, Washington married the widow Martha Dandridge Custis. Surviving letters suggest that he may have been in love at the time with Sally Fairfax, the wife of a friend. Some historians believe George and Martha were distantly related.

Nevertheless, George and Martha made a good marriage, and together raised her two children from her previous marriage, John Parke Custis and Martha Parke Custis, affectionately called "Jackie" and "Patsy" by the family. Later the Washingtons raised two of Mrs. Washington's grandchildren, Eleanor Parke Custis and George Washington Parke Custis. George and Martha never had any children together—his earlier bout with smallpox followed, possibly, by tuberculosis may have made him sterile. The newlywed couple moved to Mount Vernon, where he took up the life of a planter and political figure.

Washington's marriage to Martha, a wealthy widow, greatly increased his property holdings and social standing. He acquired one-third of the 18,000 acre (73 km²) Custis estate upon his marriage, and managed the remainder on behalf of Martha's children. He frequently bought additional land in his own name. In addition, he was granted land in what is now West Virginiamarker as a bounty for his service in the French and Indian War. By 1775, Washington had doubled the size of Mount Vernon to , and had increased the slave population there to more than 100 persons. As a respected military hero and large landowner, he held local office and was elected to the Virginia provincial legislature, the House of Burgesses, beginning in 1758.


Washington lived an aristocratic lifestyle—fox hunting was a favorite leisure activity. Like most Virginia planters, he imported luxuries and other goods from England and paid for them by exporting his tobacco crop. Extravagant spending and the unpredictability of the tobacco market meant that many Virginia planters of Washington's day were losing money. (Thomas Jefferson, for example, would die deeply in debt.)

Washington began to pull himself out of debt by diversification. By 1766, he had switched Mount Vernon's primary cash crop from tobacco to wheat, a crop which could be sold in America, and diversified operations to include flour milling, fishing, horse breeding, spinning, and weaving. Patsy Custis's death in 1773 from epilepsy enabled Washington to pay off his British creditors, since half of her inheritance passed to him.


During these years, Washington concentrated on his business activities and remained somewhat aloof from politics. Although he expressed opposition to the 1765 Stamp Act, the first direct tax on the colonies, he did not take a leading role in the growing colonial resistance until after protests of the Townshend Acts (enacted in 1767) had become widespread. In May 1769, Washington introduced a proposal drafted by his friend George Mason, which called for Virginia to boycott English goods until the Acts were repealed. Parliament repealed the Townshend Acts in 1770, and, for Washington at least, the crisis had passed. However, Washington regarded the passage of the Intolerable Acts in 1774 as "an Invasion of our Rights and Privileges." In July 1774, he chaired the meeting at which the "Fairfax Resolves" were adopted, which called for, among other things, the convening of a Continental Congress. In August, Washington attended the First Virginia Convention, where he was selected as a delegate to the First Continental Congress.

American Revolution

After fighting broke outmarker in April 1775, Washington appeared at the Second Continental Congress in military uniform, signaling that he was prepared for war. Washington had the prestige, the military experience, the charisma and military bearing, the reputation of being a strong patriot, and he was supported by the South, especially Virginia. Although he did not explicitly seek the office of commander and even claimed that he was not equal to it, there was no serious competition. Congress created the Continental Army on June 14, 1775. Nominated by John Adams of Massachusettsmarker, Washington was then appointed Major General and elected by Congress to be Commander-in-chief.

Washington assumed command of the Continental Army in the field at Cambridge, Massachusettsmarker in July 1775, during the ongoing siege of Bostonmarker. Realizing his army's desperate shortage of gunpowder, Washington asked for new sources. British arsenals were raided (including some in the Caribbeanmarker) and some manufacturing was attempted; a barely adequate supply (about 2.5 million pounds) was obtained by the end of 1776, mostly from France. Washington reorganized the army during the long standoff, and forced the British to withdraw by putting artillery on Dorchester Heightsmarker overlooking the city. The British evacuated Boston and Washington moved his army to New York Citymarker.

Although negative toward the patriots in the Continental Congress, British newspapers routinely praised Washington's personal character and qualities as a military commander. These were bold articles about an enemy general who commanded an army in a cause that many Britons believed would ruin the empire. Washington's refusal to become involved in politics buttressed his reputation as a man fully committed to the military mission at hand and above the factional fray.

In August 1776, British General William Howe launched a massive naval and land campaign designed to seize New York and offer a negotiated settlement. The Continental Army under Washington engaged the enemy for the first time as an army of the newly declared independent United States at the Battle of Long Island, the largest battle of the entire war. His army's subsequent nighttime retreat across the East Rivermarker without the loss of a single life or materiel has been seen by some historians as one of Washington's greatest military feats. This and several other British victories sent Washington scrambling out of New York and across New Jerseymarker, which left the future of the Continental Army in doubt. On the night of December 25, 1776, Washington staged a counterattack, leading the American forces across the Delaware River to capture nearly 1,000 Hessian in Trenton, New Jerseymarker. Washington followed up his victory at Trenton with another one at Princetonmarker in early January. These victories alone were not enough to ensure ultimate victory, however, as many did not reenlist or deserted during the harsh winter. Washington reorganized the army with increased rewards for staying and punishment for desertion, which raised troop numbers effectively for subsequent battles.

British forces defeated Washington's troops in the Battle of Brandywinemarker on September 11, 1777. Howe outmaneuvered Washington and marched into Philadelphia unopposed on September 26. Washington's army unsuccessfully attackedmarker the British garrison at Germantownmarker in early October. Meanwhile, Burgoyne, out of reach from help from Howe, was trapped and forced to surrender his entire armymarker at Saratoga, New Yorkmarker. France responded to Burgoyne's defeat by entering the war, openly allying with America and turning the Revolutionary War into a major worldwide war. Washington's loss of Philadelphia prompted some members of Congress to discuss removing Washington from command. This attempt failed after Washington's supporters rallied behind him.

Washington's army camped at Valley Forgemarker in December 1777, staying there for the next six months. Over the winter, 2,500 men of the 10,000-strong force died from disease and exposure. The next spring, however, the army emerged from Valley Forge in good order, thanks in part to a full-scale training program supervised by Baron von Steuben, a veteran of the Prussian general staff. The British evacuated Philadelphia to New York in 1778 but Washington attacked them at Monmouth and drove them from the battlefield. Afterwards, the British continued to head towards New York. Washington moved his army outside of New York.

In the summer of 1779 at Washington's direction, General John Sullivan carried out a decisive scorched earth campaign that destroyed at least forty Iroquois villages throughout present-day central and upstate New York in retaliation for Iroquois and Tory attacks against American settlements earlier in the war. Washington delivered the final blow to the British in 1781, after a French naval victory allowed American and French forces to trap a British army in Virginia. The surrender at Yorktown on October 17, 1781, marked the end of most fighting. Though known for his successes in the war and of his life that followed, Washington suffered many defeats before achieving victory.

In March 1783, Washington used his influence to disperse a group of Army officers who had threatened to confront Congress regarding their back pay. By the Treaty of Paris (signed that September), Great Britain recognized the independence of the United States. Washington disbanded his army and, on November 2, gave an eloquent farewell address to his soldiers.

On November 25, the British evacuated New York City, and Washington and the governor took possession. At Fraunces Tavernmarker on December 4, Washington formally bade his officers farewell and on December 23, 1783, he resigned his commission as commander-in-chief, emulating the Roman general Cincinnatus. He was an exemplar of the republican ideal of citizen leadership who rejected power. During this period, there was no position of President of the United States under the Articles of Confederation, the forerunner to the Constitution.

Washington's retirement to Mount Vernon was short-lived. He made an exploratory trip to the western frontier in 1784, was persuaded to attend the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphiamarker in the summer of 1787, and was unanimously elected president of the Convention. He participated little in the debates involved (though he did vote for or against the various articles), but his high prestige maintained collegiality and kept the delegates at their labors. The delegates designed the presidency with Washington in mind, and allowed him to define the office once elected. After the Convention, his support convinced many, including the Virginia legislature, to vote for ratification; the new Constitution was ratified by all 13 states.

Presidency

The Electoral College elected Washington unanimously in 1789, and again in the 1792 election; he remains the only president to receive 100% of the electoral votes. At his inauguration, he insisted on having Barbados Rum served. John Adams was elected vice president. Washington took the oath of office as the first President under the Constitution for the United States of America on April 30, 1789, at Federal Hallmarker in New York City although, at first, he had not wanted the position.

The 1st United States Congress voted to pay Washington a salary of $25,000 a year—a large sum in 1789. Washington, already wealthy, declined the salary, since he valued his image as a selfless public servant. At the urging of Congress, however, he ultimately accepted the payment, to avoid setting a precedent whereby the presidency would be perceived as limited only to independently wealthy individuals who could serve without any salary. Washington attended carefully to the pomp and ceremony of office, making sure that the titles and trappings were suitably republican and never emulated European royal courts. To that end, he preferred the title "Mr. President" to the more majestic names suggested.

Washington proved an able administrator. An excellent delegator and judge of talent and character, he held regular cabinet meetings to debate issues before making a final decision. In handling routine tasks, he was "systematic, orderly, energetic, solicitous of the opinion of others but decisive, intent upon general goals and the consistency of particular actions with them."

Washington reluctantly served a second term as president. He refused to run for a third, establishing the customary policy of a maximum of two terms for a president which later became law by the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution.

Domestic issues

Washington was not a member of any political party and hoped that they would not be formed, fearing conflict and stagnation. His closest advisors formed two factions, setting the framework for the future First Party System. Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton had bold plans to establish the national credit and build a financially powerful nation, and formed the basis of the Federalist Party. Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, founder of the Jeffersonian Republicans, strenuously opposed Hamilton's agenda, but Washington favored Hamilton over Jefferson.

The Residence Act of 1790, which Washington signed, authorized the President to select the specific location of the permanent seat of the government, which would be located along the Potomac River. The Act authorized the President to appoint three commissioners to survey and acquire property for this seat. Washington personally oversaw this effort throughout his term in office. In 1791, the commissioners named the permanent seat of government "The City of Washington in the Territory of Columbia" to honor Washington. In 1800, the Territory of Columbia became the District of Columbiamarker when the federal government moved to the site according to the provisions of the Residence Act.

In 1791, Congress imposed an excise on distilled spirits, which led to protests in frontier districts, especially Pennsylvania. By 1794, after Washington ordered the protesters to appear in U.S. district court, the protests turned into full-scale riots known as the Whiskey Rebellion. The federal army was too small to be used, so Washington invoked the Militia Act of 1792 to summon the militias of Pennsylvania, Virginia, and several other states. The governors sent the troops and Washington took command, marching into the rebellious districts. There was no fighting, but Washington's forceful action proved the new government could protect itself. It also was one of only two times that a sitting President would personally command the military in the field. These events marked the first time under the new constitution that the federal government used strong military force to exert authority over the states and citizens.

Foreign affairs

In 1793, the revolutionary government of France sent diplomat Edmond-Charles Genêt, called "Citizen Genêt," to America. Genêt issued letters of marque and reprisal to American ships so they could capture British merchant ships. He attempted to turn popular sentiment towards American involvement in the French war against Britain by creating a network of Democratic-Republican Societies in major cities. Washington rejected this interference in domestic affairs, demanded the French government recall Genêt, and denounced his societies.

Hamilton and Washington designed the Jay Treaty to normalize trade relations with Britain, remove them from western forts, and resolve financial debts left over from the Revolution. John Jay negotiated and signed the treaty on November 19, 1794. The Jeffersonians supported France and strongly attacked the treaty. Washington and Hamilton, however, mobilized public opinion and won ratification by the Senate by emphasizing Washington's support. The British agreed to depart their forts around the Great Lakesmarker, the Canadian-U.S. boundary was adjusted, numerous pre-Revolutionary debts were liquidated, and the British opened their West Indies colonies to American trade. Most importantly, the treaty delayed war with Britain and instead brought a decade of prosperous trade with that country. This angered the French and became a central issue in political debates.

Farewell Address

Washington's Farewell Address (issued as a public letter in 1796) was one of the most influential statements of American political values.Drafted primarily by Washington himself, with help from Hamilton, it gives advice on the necessity and importance of national union, the value of the Constitution and the rule of law, the evils of political parties, and the proper virtues of a republican people. While he declined suggested versions that would have included statements that morality required a "divinely authoritative religion," he called morality "a necessary spring of popular government." He said, "Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle."

Washington's public political address warned against foreign influence in domestic affairs and American meddling in European affairs. He warned against bitter partisanship in domestic politics and called for men to move beyond partisanship and serve the common good. He warned against 'permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world', saying the United States must concentrate primarily on American interests. He counseled friendship and commerce with all nations, but warned against involvement in European wars and entering into long-term "entangling" alliances. The address quickly set American values regarding religion and foreign affairs.

Retirement and death

After retiring from the presidency in March 1797, Washington returned to Mount Vernon with a profound sense of relief. He devoted much time to farming.

On July 4, 1798, Washington was commissioned by President John Adams to be Lieutenant General and Commander-in-chief of the armies raised or to be raised for service in a prospective war with France. He served as the senior officer of the United States Army between July 13, 1798, and December 14, 1799. He participated in the planning for a Provisional Army to meet any emergency that might arise, but did not take the field.

On December 12, 1799, Washington spent several hours inspecting his farms on horseback, in snow and later hail and freezing rain. He sat down to dine that evening without changing his wet clothes. The next morning, he awoke with a bad cold, fever, and a throat infection called quinsy that turned into acute laryngitis and pneumonia. Washington died on the evening of December 14, 1799, at his home aged 67, while attended by Dr. James Craik, one of his closest friends, Dr. Gustavus Richard Brown, Dr. Elisha C. Dick, and Tobias Lear V, Washington's personal secretary. Lear would record the account in his journal, writing that Washington's last words were "'Tis well."

Modern doctors believe that Washington died largely because of his treatment, which included calomel and bloodletting, resulting in a combination of shock from the loss of five pints of blood, as well as asphyxia and dehydration. Washington's remains were buried at Mount Vernon. Originally, he was interred in the old tomb on the estate. In 1831, for the cenntenial of his birth, his remains were moved to the current tomb. To protect their privacy, Martha Washington burned the correspondence between her husband and herself following his death. Only three letters between the couple have survived.

Throughout the world men and women were saddened by Washington's death. Napoleon ordered ten days of mourning throughout France and in the United States thousands wore mourning clothes for months. On December 18, 1799, a funeral was held at Mount Vernon.

Administration, Cabinet and Supreme Court appointments



States joining the Union under Washington's Presidency:


Original states:

New states:

Legacy

Representative Henry Lee, a Revolutionary War comrade and father of the Civil War general Robert E. Lee, famously eulogized Washington as follows:
First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen, he was second to none in humble and enduring scenes of private life. Pious, just, humane, temperate, and sincere; uniform, dignified, and commanding; his example was as edifying to all around him as were the effects of that example lasting...Correct throughout, vice shuddered in his presence and virtue always felt his fostering hand. The purity of his private character gave effulgence to his public virtues...Such was the man for whom our nation mourns.


Lee's words set the standard by which Washington's overwhelming reputation was impressed upon the American memory. Washington set many precedents for the national government and the presidency in particular.

As early as 1778, Washington was lauded as the "Father of His Country".

During the United States Bicentennial year, George Washington was posthumously appointed to the grade of General of the Armies of the United States by the congressional joint resolution Public Law 94-479 of January 19, 1976, approved by President Gerald Ford on October 11, 1976, and formalized in Department of the Army Order 31-3 of March 13, 1978 with an effective appointment date of July 4, 1976. This restored Washington's position as the highest ranking military officer in U.S. history.

Monuments and memorials

Today, Washington's face and image are often used as national symbols of the United States, along with the icons such as the flag and great seal. Perhaps the most prominent commemoration of his legacy is the use of his image on the one-dollar bill and the quarter-dollar coin. Washington, together with Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln, is depicted in stone at the Mount Rushmore Memorialmarker. The Washington Monument, one of the most well-known American landmarks, was built in his honor. The George Washington Masonic National Memorialmarker in Alexandria, Virginia, constructed entirely with voluntary contributions from members of the Masonic Fraternity, was also built in his honor.

Many things have been named in honor of Washington. Washington's name became that of the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.marker, only one of two capitals across the globe to be named after an American president (the other is Monroviamarker, Liberiamarker). The state of Washingtonmarker is the only state to be named after an American (Maryland, Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia are all named in honor of British monarchs). George Washington Universitymarker and Washington University in St. Louismarker were named for him, as was Washington and Lee Universitymarker (once Washington Academy), which was renamed due to Washington’s large endowment in 1796. Countless American cities and towns feature a Washington Street among their thoroughfares.

The Confederate Seal prominently featured George Washington on horseback, in the same position as a statue of him in Richmond, Virginiamarker.

There is even a statue of Washington in London, the capital of his enemies. Based on Jean Antoine Houdon's marble statue in Richmond, Virginia, it was given to the British Nation in 1921 by the Commonwealth of Virginia. It stands in front of the National Gallerymarker at Trafalgar Squaremarker. It has been claimed that the soil on which the statue stands also comes from America since Washington is reported to have said that he would never stand on English ground.

Washington and slavery

The slave trade continued throughout George Washington’s life. On the death of his father in 1743, the 11-year-old inherited 10 slaves. At the time of his marriage to Martha Custis in 1759, he personally owned at least 36 (and the widow's third of her first husband's estate brought at least 85 "dower slaves" to Mount Vernon). Using his wife's great wealth he bought land, tripling the size of the plantation, and additional slaves to farm it. By 1774 he paid taxes on 135 slaves (this does not include the "dowers"). The last record of a slave purchase by him was in 1772, although he later received some slaves in repayment of debts.

Before the American Revolution, Washington expressed no moral reservations about slavery, but in 1786, Washington wrote to Robert Morris, saying, "There is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do, to see a plan adopted for the abolition of slavery." In 1778 he wrote to his manager at Mount Vernon that he wished "to get quit of negroes." Maintaining a large, and increasingly elderly, slave population at Mount Vernon was not economically profitable. Washington could not legally sell the "dower slaves," however, and because these slaves had long intermarried with his own slaves, he could not sell his slaves without breaking up families.

As president, Washington brought seven slaves to New York City in 1789 to work in the first presidential household– Oney Judge, Moll, Giles, Paris, Austin, Christopher Sheels, and William Lee. Following the transfer of the national capital to Philadelphia in 1790, he brought nine slaves to work in the President's HousemarkerOney Judge, Moll, Giles, Paris, Austin, Christopher Sheels, Hercules, Richmond, and Joe (Richardson). Oney Judge and Hercules escaped to freedom from Philadelphia, and there were foiled escape attempts from Mount Vernon by Richmond and Christopher Sheels.

Pennsylvaniamarker had begun an abolition of slavery in 1780, and prohibited nonresidents from holding slaves in the state longer than six months. If held beyond that period, the state's Gradual Abolition Law gave those slaves the power to free themselves. Washington argued (privately) that his presence in Pennsylvania was solely a consequence of Philadelphia's being the temporary seat of the federal government, and that the state law should not apply to him. On the advice of his attorney general, Edmund Randolph, he systematically rotated the President's House slaves in and out of the state to prevent their establishing a six-month continuous residency. This rotation was itself a violation of the Pennsylvania law, but the President's actions were not challenged.

The Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 established the legal mechanism by which a slaveholder could recover his property, a right guaranteed by the Fugitive Slave Clause of the U.S. Constitution (Article IV, Section 2). Passed overwhelmingly by Congress and signed into law by Washington, the 1793 Act made assisting an escaped slave a federal crime, overruled all state and local laws giving escaped slaves sanctuary, and allowed slavecatchers into every U.S. state and territory.

Washington was the only prominent, slaveholding Founding Father who succeeded in emancipating his slaves. His actions were influenced by his close relationship with Marquis de La Fayette. He did not free his slaves in his lifetime, however, but included a provision in his will to free his slaves upon the death of his wife. At the time of his death, there were 317 slaves at Mount Vernon– 123 owned by Washington, 154 "dower slaves," and 40 rented from a neighbor.

Martha Washington bequeathed the one slave she owned outright– Elisha– to her grandson George Washington Parke Custis. Following her death in 1802, the dower slaves were inherited by her grandchildren.

It has been argued that Washington did not speak out publicly against slavery, because he did not wish to create a split in the new republic, with an issue that was sensitive and divisive. Even if Washington had opposed the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793, his veto probably would have been overridden. (The Senate vote was not recorded, but the House passed it overwhelmingly, 47 to 8.)

Religious beliefs

Washington was baptized into the Church of England. In 1765, when the Church of England was still the state religion, he served on the vestry (lay council) for his local church. Throughout his life, he spoke of the value of righteousness, and of seeking and offering thanks for the "blessings of Heaven."

In a letter to George Mason in 1785, Washington wrote that he was not among those alarmed by a bill "making people pay towards the support of that [religion] which they profess," but felt that it was "impolitic" to pass such a measure, and wished it had never been proposed, believing that it would disturb public tranquility.

His adopted daughter, Nelly Custis Lewis, stated: "I have heard her [Nelly's mother, Eleanor Calvert Custis, who resided in Mount Vernon for two years] say that General Washington always received the sacrament with my grandmother [Martha Washington] before the revolution." After the revolution, Washington frequently accompanied his wife to Christian church services; however, there is no record of his ever taking communion, and he would regularly leave services before communion—with the other non-communicants (as was the custom of the day), until, after being admonished by a rector, he ceased attending at all on communion Sundays.Prior to communion, believers are admonished to take stock of their spiritual lives and not to participate in the ceremony unless he finds himself in the will of God.Historians and biographers continue to debate the degree to which he can be counted as a Christian, and the degree to which he was a deist.

Upon the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783 at a celebration in Newburg, New York, Washington called upon one of his Chaplains, John Gano to offer the prayer of thanksgiving. Washington also requested that Gano baptize him as recorded in The Kentucky State Historical Society register. Virginia Baptists, who were witnesses, state that the baptism was in 1780 or 1781.

He was an early supporter of religious toleration and freedom of religion. In 1775, he ordered that his troops not show anti-Catholic sentiments by burning the pope in effigy on Guy Fawkes Night. When hiring workmen for Mount Vernon, he wrote to his agent, "If they be good workmen, they may be from Asia, Africa, or Europe; they may be Mohammedans, Jews, or Christians of any sect, or they may be Atheists." In 1790, he wrote a response to a letter from the Touro Synagoguemarker, in which he said that as long as people remain good citizens, they don't have to fear persecution for having differing beliefs/faiths. This was a relief to the Jewish community of the United States, since the Jews had been either expelled or discriminated against in many European countries.
...the Government of the United States ... gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance. ... May the children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and figtree, and there shall be none to make him afraid. May the father of all mercies scatter light and not darkness in our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in his own due time and way everlastingly happy.


The United States Bill of Rights was in the process of being ratified at the time.

Personal life

Along with Martha's biological family noted above, George Washington had a close relationship with his nephew and heir Bushrod Washington, son of George's younger brother John Augustine Washington. Bushrod became an Associate Justice on the US Supreme Courtmarker after George's death.

As a young man, Washington had red hair. A popular myth is that he wore a wig, as was the fashion among some at the time. Washington did not wear a wig; instead he powdered his hair, as represented in several portraits, including the well-known unfinished Gilbert Stuart depiction.

Washington suffered from problems with his teeth throughout his life. He lost his first adult tooth when he was twenty-two and had only one left by the time he became President. John Adams claims he lost them because he used them to crack Brazil nuts but modern historians suggest the mercury oxide which he was given to treat illnesses such as smallpox and malaria probably contributed to the loss. He had several sets of false teeth made, four of them by a dentist named John Greenwood. Contrary to popular belief, none of the sets were made from wood. The set made when he became President was carved from hippopotamus and elephant ivory, held together with gold springs. The hippo ivory was used for the plate, into which real human teeth and bits of horses' and donkeys' teeth were inserted. Dental problems left Washington in constant pain, for which he took laudanum. This distress may be apparent in many of the portraits painted while he was still in office, including the one still used on the $1 bill.

One of the most enduring myths about George Washington involves his chopping down his father's cherry tree and, when asked about it, using the famous line "I cannot tell a lie, I did it with my little hatchet." There is no evidence that this ever occurred. It, along with the story of Washington throwing a silver dollar across the Potomac River, was part of a book of mythic stories written by Mason Weems that made Washington a legendary figure beyond his wartime and presidential achievements.

See also



References: biographies

  • Buchanan, John. The Road to Valley Forge: How Washington Built the Army That Won the Revolution (2004). 368 pp.
  • Burns, James MacGregor and Dunn, Susan. George Washington. Times, 2004. 185 pp. explore leadership style
  • Cunliffe, Marcus. George Washington: Man and Monument (1958), explores both the biography and the myth
  • Grizzard, Frank E., Jr. George! A Guide to All Things Washington. Buena Vista and Charlottesville, VA: Mariner Publishing. 2005. ISBN 0-9768238-0-2. Grizzard is a leading scholar of Washington.
  • Hirschfeld, Fritz. George Washington and Slavery: A Documentary Portrayal. University of Missouri Press, 1997.
  • Ellis, Joseph J. His Excellency: George Washington. (2004) ISBN 1-4000-4031-0. Acclaimed interpretation of Washington's career.
  • Elkins, Stanley M. and Eric McKitrick. The Age of Federalism. (1994) the leading scholarly history of the 1790s.
  • Ferling, John E. The First of Men: A Life of George Washington (1989). Biography from a leading scholar.
  • Fischer, David Hackett. Washington's Crossing. (2004), prize-winning military history focused on 1775–1776.
  • Flexner, James Thomas. Washington: The Indispensable Man. (1974). ISBN 0-316-28616-8 (1994 reissue). Single-volume condensation of Flexner's popular four-volume biography.
  • Freeman, Douglas S. George Washington: A Biography. 7 volumes, 1948–1957. The standard scholarly biography, winner of the Pulitzer Prize. A single-volume abridgement by Richard Harwell appeared in 1968
  • Grizzard, Frank E., Jr. George Washington: A Biographical Companion. ABC-CLIO, 2002. 436 pp. Comprehensive encyclopedia by leading scholar
  • Grizzard, Frank E., Jr. The Ways of Providence: Religion and George Washington. Buena Vista and Charlottesville, VA: Mariner Publishing. 2005. ISBN 0-9768238-1-0.
  • Higginbotham, Don, ed. George Washington Reconsidered. University Press of Virginia, (2001). 336 pp of essays by scholars
  • Higginbotham, Don. George Washington: Uniting a Nation. Rowman & Littlefield, (2002). 175 pp.
  • Hofstra, Warren R., ed. George Washington and the Virginia Backcountry. Madison House, 1998. Essays on Washington's formative years.
  • Lengel, Edward G. General George Washington: A Military Life. New York: Random House, 2005. ISBN 1-4000-6081-8.
  • Lodge, Henry Cabot. George Washington, 2 vols. (1889), vol 1 at Gutenberg; vol 2 at Gutenberg
  • McDonald, Forrest. The Presidency of George Washington. 1988. Intellectual history showing Washington as exemplar of republicanism.
  • Smith, Richard Norton Patriarch: George Washington and the New American Nation Focuses on last 10 years of Washington's life.
  • Spalding, Matthew. "George Washington's Farewell Address", The Wilson Quarterly v20#4 (Autumn 1996) pp: 65+.
  • Stritof, Sheri and Bob. "George and Martha Washington" http://marriage.about.com/od/presidentialmarriages/p/gwashington.htm
  • Wiencek, Henry. An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves, and the Creation of America. (2003).


Notes

External links




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