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George Washington's History is so much a part of the history of the United States of America, that without it America would not exist as it does today. Was he a perfect man without flaws? No, but for the times that he lived his accomplishments effected the creation of possibly the greatest nation in the world. To learn even a little about such a life can only help us with our own.
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22 February 1732 — Westmoreland County, Virginia
George Washington's birth took place on Pope's Creek in Westmoreland County, Virginia, on February 22, 1732. His father was Augustine Washington and his mother was Mary Ball, Augustine's second wife. George had two older half brothers from his father's first marriage, Lawrence and Augustine Jr. Lawrence would have a huge influence in his younger brother George's future life. George also had five younger siblings from his father and mother's union. There is not a lot of reliable information about George Washington's youth but I would guess that he was not an extrovert based on his later years. He would have to have been a thoughtful and then deliberate young man. We know that when he was eleven his father died leaving the majority of his holdings to George's older half brothers. His mother had enough to maintain her family, but George would not go abroad to school. In fact he went to local schools until he was 15. He didn't learn a foreign language as many of the upper class youth did and he never did attend college. He considered his education severely lacking which drove him to reading and self study. From all indications George was adept at mathematics which showed a left brain mentality. That would make George more of a logical thinker. That would serve him well later on in life both as a military strategist and farmer.
George was involved in slavery from the time he was born. Another wards he grew up with it and when he was 11 he inherited 10 slaves and 500 acres of land. Slavery in the minds of citizens today, rightfully so, is a horrendous thing. We believe that the ownership of another human being is a terrible travesty of justice. However, back in the 1700's it was common practice. It was and will never be a correct principle and there were plenty of people back in those days that disagreed with the practice. Most of them were not farmers depending on the labor. We will discuss this issue of George Washington as a slave owner later on in the page.
There are numerous stories of George Washington, his honesty, integrity and strength. Some could very well be true but there is no good way to verify these stories as fact. I will say that from the facts that we have concerning his later years he had to have been an extraordinary young man.
1747 — Virginia
As George Washington continued on into manhood he was greatly influenced by his brother Lawrence and went to live with him at Mt Vernon. When George was 14 Lawrence suggested that he enter the military with the British Navy but his mother refused to allow it. He then decided that surveying was an occupational choice that would allow him some latitude and earning power. He worked in a kind of apprenticeship type of roll. By the time he was 17 he was respected and on his way to surveying success. George was 6'3" which was very tall for the times. He was already beginning to carry himself with grace. With his earnings he started buying up unclaimed lands to the west.
In 1751 George traveled with Lawrence down to Barbados in the hope that the tropical climate would bring his brother relief from tuberculosis. While there George contracted small pox. He got over it quickly. In 1752 Lawrence passed away leaving George Mt. Vernon. This would become his safe haven until the end of his life. He also recieved his brother's commission in the Virginia Militia and was given the rank of major. During the coming years he would receive different military assignments where he experienced some successes and quite a number of failures. Through it all he gained experience and respect. He had horses shot out from underneath him as well as bullet holes in his clothing. It is my opinion that divine providence was looking after him and preparing him for his future
Before Washington resigned his commision in the Virginia Militia he was a Lt Colonel and had been given command of the entire militia. Even though he was only 27 he had more military experience than anyone who was born in the colonies. In 1758 Washington was elected to the House of Burgesses. At this point in time he married the wealthy Martha Dandridge Custis and settled down in 1759 to farm at Mt Vernon.
1759 — Mt Vernon Virginia
George Washington's goal had always been to farm at Mt. Vernon. He spent the next 15 years or so doing just that. He continually improved the facilities and developed his farming by innovatively changing crop production, rotating crops and demanding the same exact performance from those who worked for him as he did from himself.
In the House of Burgesses his service was generally quiet and thoughtful. He towered over the members of the House and carried himself with a noticeable military grace. He was deeply respected and never gave a reason not to be. During this time he watched as the relationship between England and the Colonies deteriorated. George Washington was known as a patriot and as the division between England and the Colonies grew so did the opinion of Washington about an upcoming rebellion.
In 1775 Congress commissioned Washington as commander of the Colonial Army. He only thought that he would be gone for a short time from his beloved wife and Mt.Vernon. That was not to be.
1775 — Philadelphia, PN
Washington would not see Mt. Vernon for the next eight years. As commander of the Continental Army he was thrown into a position of large troop management without any experience. Not only did he have to become a strategist and go up against the greatest military minds in the world, but he had to do it with a thrown together army, meagerly supplied, untrained and undisciplined. In the beginning they were defeated at every turn. Washington learned with each defeat. He was continually in contact with the Congress trying to acquire the needed supplies to support his volunteer army. About this time George Washington had received a copy of the DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE (Readable Text) and had it read to his troops. Finally in December of 1776 with his troops starving, freezing and ready to muster out General Washington had had enough. Congress was losing faith in him, the troops and the war. General Howe had left a strong group of Hessions in Trenton under the command of General Rall, and another contingent of British in Princeton. No one expected the Colonial Army to attack.
On Christmas 1776 Washington would use a failed 3 prong attack to defeat the Hessians at Trenton . In three different positions his troops would CROSS THE DELAWARE RIVER at night and surprise the Germans. His group was the only one of the three to make the crossing. With firm resolve the colonists with their one group attacked Trenton. There were a number of the colonists that had their feet wrapped in rags and left trails of blood in the snow. Two men died on the march. They attacked with such ferocity that the battle was quick and decisive. This would be the turning point in the war. Washington and the Colonial Army went on to take Princeton before venturing back over the Deleware to winter.
General Washington had snuck in and had two victories over both General Howe and Cornwallis. This information would make it back to France and would help Benjamin Franklin's efforts to enlist the help of the French. This would eventually help in bringing about a Colonial victory.
As the war progressed there were defeats and eventual victories. One pivotal vistory was when Burgoyne was defeated at Saratoga. There, General Benedict Arnold would be seen as a hero in leading the charge that defeated Burgoyne. Arnold would be wounded and would eventually disappoint Washington and the trust he put in him by turning traitor to the colonial cause. The Saratoga victory with the help of Benjamin Franklin's diplomacy would garner the French's help and commitment to the Americans.
One of the toughest periods for the Colonials was yet to come the following winter at VALLEY FORGE. After suffering defeat and then seeing Philadelphia fall, General Washington's troops were relegated to winter in Valley Forge. December and February were the toughest months. It is said that about 12,000 troops arrived and from death to exposure and disease over 2,000 men died. Then there were over a thousand desertions. No one is exactly sure of the numbers, but the government was again non-existant in supplying the army. I often think of what went on during that time, and the strength that it took for Washington to persevere in such dire circumstances. He had to watch his troops die and desert him. At the same time he had to continue to forge ahead and demand allegience.
Once they got through Valley Forge the colonial army continued to gain ground. When General Arnolds betrayal was discovered and put to an end, and the French ships arrived, the United States finally won their freedom from England. The years that followed would determine if the fledgling nation would survive. It would again take the strong hand and determination of George Washington to help see this through!
On DECEMBER 23rd, 1783 George Washington presented himself before Congress and resigned his commission as the commander of the Colonial Army. He had survived and come out victorious. All of his critics, some of them had been close friends, would be silenced forever. Never before had any American so distinguished himself in such a selfless and unassuming way. General Washington had but one desire at this point, and that was to return to his family and Mt. Vernon. His hiatus from public life would to be short lived.
1787 — Constitutional Convention, Philadelphia, PN
When George Washington resigned his commission and retired to Mt Vernon it is important to note that with his popularity at the time he could have led the country. His desire was not for power but for the peace of home. This kind of thing was never the case at this time in the world. Because of his unassuming nature it brought him not only national, but international acclaim.
By 1785 things were not going well within and between the states. Something had to be done to correct the situation or the nation would not survive. Washington knew that reform would be needed. The Articles of Confederation did not take things far enough and so he felt that they must be done away with and a new and aggressive constitution was needed. In 1787 Washington once again left Mt Vernon and traveled to Philadelphia for a convention to go over the Articles of Confederation and make changes where needed. He was immediately elected to chair the convention and it would last four long hot months. When it was over the Articles of Confederation had been abandoned and a new CONSTITUTION (Readable Text) had been written, the likes of which the world had never seen. During the convention Washington was the facilitator for some of the greatest minds the country had seen. He chaired the convention with a military grace that demanded respect. There were times when things felt like they were caving in around them but time after time one or two votes would pass an important motion and keep them going toward the success that they desired.
Once the convention was complete Washington spent day after day working to get the document ratified so that the United States of America could exist. It finally passed by one vote. George Washington and his unassuming role as the leader of the nation was the main reason success had been attained. He stood again as he had as commander of the Colonial Army as the leader of the Nation. Once again his desire was to retire to his family and Mt. Vernon. That again was not to be.
1789 — Washington, DC
George Washington hoped to retire once the Constitution was ratified. Fortunately for us every elector cast their vote for him in the first presidential election. He is still the only president in history to get the unanimous voice of the American people. During his first term in office which lasted from 1789-1793 he focused on the organizing the executive branch of government and setting up policy that would get the United States out of debt and into the black. He organized his cabinet with people he had known both in politics and in the war.
He would be elected a for a second term and was in office long enough to see partisanship which he disliked but I am sure realized would be a permanent part of American politics. He kept us neutral and out of war allowing the country to grow and expand. He also was a president of integrity upon which all who followed would be measured. George Washington didn't care if you friend or foe. The law and the order of things were ruled upon with equity and he would not be swayed by any influence.
The people tried to talk President Washington into running for a third term but he would not succumb. He had set up the government according to the constitution and had given the country 8 years as her president, 1789-1797. George Washington was a rock. He was the foundation of this great country and her beginning. I cannot help again but say that he was divinely appointed to live the life that he did so that we could have what we have today. Again he was not a perfect man. There are no perfect men on this earth. He was however inspired I believe from God to stand out in history as our "Founding Father" by the service he selflessly rendered.
1798 — Mt Vernon
George Washington would spend less than two years at his beloved Mt. Vernon with Martha before he died. On December 14th, 1799 he was caught out in a freezing rain storm and became ill. Just three days later he passed away at the age of 67. He had accomplished his mission on this earth. George Washington was the man needed to bring some of the greatest minds of his time together to win a revolution from tyranny and to create and institute a blueprint for a nation that would survive the tests of time. So far this grand experiment has been a success. It will not be the fault of George Washington if it fails.
I feel that addressing the issue of Washington and slavery needs to be done and I think that placing it here is important. As honest and moral as he was in integrity he was not perfect. Raised in a situation where slavery was the norm, placed him in a precarious situation with this issue. If someone tells you that you are worthless every day of your life you will believe them until something strong enough happens to shake that belief. With Washington, slavery was what drove their family economy and that of the south. Did that make it correct? In the eyes of the people that lived there at that time, it probably did. However as Washington lived his life and listened to the differing opinions concerning the matter one would think that the light would go on and he would become enlightened. Did that happen?
On Wikipedia there is a great write-up on WASHINGTON and SLAVERY. He was a slave owner his entire life. With reasons listed and the history of slavery in his life he still had battles with the issue. He had abolitionists badgering him to denounce slavery and get rid of it in the United States. As we well know that did not happen until Abraham Lincoln's presidency in the 1860s.
We get one last glimpse of Washington's feelings towards his slaves and the issue of their emancipation as can be read here in his LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT. It is my hope that we will understand the times to the best of our ability and not dwell on any faults that Washington may have had, but focus on the great accomplishments of his life. Overall he was a man of integrity. I don't of any instances of him lying or covering up. When confronted with the truth I believe he was generally honest, forthright and just.
February 1832 — United States of America
President's Day was known as Washington's Birthday and was first celebrated in 1832 as a national holiday. As the years went on both Lincoln and Washington's birthdays were celebrated nationally. Finally we now celebrate Washington, Lincoln and all who have been president. It is important to note however that President's Day began as a celebration of the birthday of a man who meant everything to the formation and foundation of the United States of America.
The following are some quotes attributed to George Washington which will give you an insight into the soul that gave so much.
"Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation. It is better be alone than in bad company."
"Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence. True friendship is a plant of slow growth, and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity before it is entitled to the appellation."
"Few people have the virtue to withstand the highest bidder."
"Worry is the interest paid by those who borrow trouble."
"Let your heart feel for the afflictions and distress of everyone, and let your hand give in proportion to your purse."
"Discipline is the soul of an army. It makes small numbers formidable; procures success to the weak, and esteem to all."
"When we assumed the Soldier, we did not lay aside the Citizen."
"Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair; the rest is in the hands of God."