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Short Guide to George Washington

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Film, literature, poetry, and sports interest me. Studying history and learning from the past inspire me.

Gilbert Stuart's portrait of George Washington - 1796

Gilbert Stuart's portrait of George Washington - 1796

George Washington

George Washington led an astounding life and accomplished incredible feats. Physically, he was a large and imposing figure. He stood head and shoulders over his contemporaries, both literally and figuratively. A humble man, he had destiny thrust upon him. He was not found wanting!

Often referred to as the Father of Our Country, George Washington was a surveyor, gentleman farmer, and soldier. He held the rank of Lieutenant General and Commander In Chief of the nation's armies. As President, he served two terms (April 30, 1789- March 4, 1797). He was the first President to turn down a third term.

Beloved by all, at the end of his terms as President, Washington resisted efforts to make him King. What he loved to do most in his later life was expand his beloved Mt Vernon. Our country would not let him remain there often. The United States of America would not be the most amazing democratic republic in the history of the world!

Physical Description

In Paul K. Longmore's biography, The Invention of George Washington, he quotes a contemporary of George Washington's by the name of George Mercer. He states that Washington,

"may be described as straight as an Indian, measuring 6 feet 2 inches in his stockings and weighing 175 pounds. His frame is padded with well-developed muscles, indicating great strength. His head is well shaped though not large but is poised on a superb neck. His voice is agreeable rather than strong. His demeanor at all times composed and dignified. His movements and gestures are graceful, his walk majestic, and he is a splendid horseman." pg 51

Portrait of George Washington Taking The Salute At Trenton - John Faed, c.1899

Portrait of George Washington Taking The Salute At Trenton - John Faed, c.1899

Quick Facts About His Life

  • George Washington was born at Wakefield Farm in Pope's Creek, Westmoreland County, in the British colony of Virginia on February 22, 1732 (1732-99).
  • From age seven to sixteen, he was home-schooled and studied with the local church sexton. Later, he was tutored in practical math, geography, Latin, and the English classics. Washington mastered tobacco growing, raising stock, and surveying. His father died in 1743, leaving him the man of the house.
  • At age 17, in 1749, Washington was appointed official surveyor for Culpeper County. He was to survey the boundaries of the Virginia colony. On July 1752, upon the death of brother Lawrence, Washington inherits rights to the Mount Vernon plantation. That same year, Washington received a commission in the Virginia militia.
  • His family was part of the Anglican Church (later becoming the Episcopal Church). Later in his life, he held popular Deist beliefs but never renounced the fact he was a Christian. Throughout his life, his letters, addresses, and proclamations were full of references to God and Providence.
  • He married Martha Dandridge Custis in 1759. It was her second marriage, his first. She brought two small children, “Jacky” (John Parke Custis) and “Patsy” (Martha Parke Custis) to the marriage.
  • He was the first President to serve two terms (April 30, 1789-March 4, 1797). He was the first President to turn down a third term in office.
  • George Washington died on December 14, 1799, at Mount Vernon, Virginia, at the age of 67. He was buried in the family vault in Mount Vernon, Virginia.

French and Indian War 1754–1758

In November 1753, Washington led a Virginia expedition to challenge French claims in the Allegheny River Valley.

In August 1755, Washington was made Commander and Chief of the Virginia Militia at age 23. England and France were enemies in America, fighting to control the Ohio River Valley. Washington led a poorly trained and ill-equipped force of 150 men to build a fort on the Ohio River. On the way, he entered combat with a small French force. A French minister lost his life in the process. The French ultimately succeeded in routing the British in a major defeat. Word spread of Washington's heroism and leadership against the French. Although he was hailed as a hero in the colonies, Washington applied for a commission with the British Army but was turned down. The Royal Government in England blamed the colonials for the defeat, and this reflected negatively on Washington.

He resigned his commission and returned to Mount Vernon disillusioned in December 1758. Washington never gained the commission in the British army, but in these years he gained valuable military, political, and leadership skills. He did not return to military life until the outbreak of the revolution in 1775.

Mount Vernon, Fairfax County, Virginia - September 2010

Mount Vernon, Fairfax County, Virginia - September 2010

Mezzotint of Martha Washington by John Folwell, drawn by W. Oliver Stone after the original by John Wollaston, painted in 1757

Mezzotint of Martha Washington by John Folwell, drawn by W. Oliver Stone after the original by John Wollaston, painted in 1757

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Life at Mount Vernon 1759–1775

Washington married the wealthy widow Martha Dandridge Custis, 28, on January 6, 1759. His marriage to Martha greatly increased his property holdings as well as his social standing. He became one of Virginia's wealthiest men.

The British landed gentry's life of horseback riding, fox hunts, and fishing suited Washington well. He was a leader in the social elite in Virginia. He devised innovative methods for crop rotation.

Often, he took off his coat and performed manual labor with his workers. He bred cattle and horses and tended his fruit orchards. He kept over 100 slaves, but it was said that he disliked the institution.

Washington entered politics in 1758 and was elected to Virginia's House of Burgesses. He was named Justice of the Peace, Fairfax County, in 1770. He quickly became a prominent political leader in Virginia and was recognized in the Colonies. Washington was one of the first to openly support resistance to England's policies of taxation and strict regulation of the colonial economy (the Navigation Acts). He was appointed delegate to the Williamsburg Convention in the 1770 Virginia legislature. This led to his further appointments as a delegate to the First Continental Congress in 1774 and the Second Continental Congress in 1775.

General and Commander in Chief of the Continental Army - ca. 1787—1790

General and Commander in Chief of the Continental Army - ca. 1787—1790

Commander in Chief 1775-83

The Revolutionary War broke out between the American colonies and Great Britain in 1775. Local militia units from Massachusetts had engaged British troops near Lexington and Concord. Washington was unanimously elected commander in chief of all the colonial forces. He modestly stated in response to the appointment, “I beg it may be remembered by every gentleman in the room, that I this day declare with the utmost sincerity, I do not think myself equal to the command I am honored with.”1 He refused pay but asked for reimbursement of expenses. He served as commander in chief of the Continental Army for the duration of the American Revolutionary War (1775-83).

In July 1776, Washington was in New York with his troops. In Philadelphia, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and the other delegates of the Continental Congress wrote the Declaration of Independence.

Washington's army routed the British from Boston in the spring of 1776. But, they endured a series of humiliating defeats in an effort to defend New York. On Christmas Day, he led his army through a blizzard and crossed the Delaware into New Jersey. They defeated the Hessians at Trenton.

The turning point of the Revolution came in May 1778. The French agreed to an alliance with the Americans. Washington knew that one great victory by his army would break the British Parliament's support of the war against the colonies. In October 1781, Washington's troops, assisted by the French Navy, defeated Cornwallis at Yorktown. By the spring of 1782, the British government was willing to end hostilities with the colonies. A peace treaty is signed between Great Britain and the United States on September 3, 1783.

Washington Crossing the Delaware - Metropolitan Museum of Art

Washington Crossing the Delaware - Metropolitan Museum of Art

1797 based on the uncompleted Antheneum portrait by Gilbert Stuart; completed by Charles Willson Peale.

1797 based on the uncompleted Antheneum portrait by Gilbert Stuart; completed by Charles Willson Peale.

Presidency 1789-96

Washington resigned his commission as Commander in Chief in 1783. He gave up his power when he could have claimed it for himself. Following the war, Washington quelled a potentially disastrous bid by some of his officers to declare him king. Washington returned home to Mount Vernon believing that his days of public service were finished. He then returned to Mount Vernon and the genteel life of a tobacco planter.

He was called out of retirement to preside at the Constitutional Convention in 1787. The weak state of the union under the Articles of Confederation began to trouble Washington more and more. In 1787 he traveled to Philadelphia, where his sterling reputation and austere manner helped to usher through a totally new constitution. He was elected Delegate and President of the Constitutional Convention in 1787.

In 1789 he was elected as the nation’s first president as the first President of the United States. He set precedents for the future of the office and created a new government. He shaped our country's institutions, offices, and governmental practices.

In 1792, he badly wanted to retire after the first term, but the electoral college unanimously supported Washington for a second term. His second term centered on foreign affairs. He struggled to prevent the emergence of political parties because he viewed them as factions that were harmful to the country's common good.

Washington insisted on his power to act independently of Congress in foreign conflicts. When war broke out between France and England in 1793, he issued a Declaration of Neutrality.

Retirement and Last Days 1796-99

By 1796, no amount of persuading could keep Washington away from Mount Vernon. He refused a third term as president and retired in 1797. He left office, exhausted and discouraged over the rise of political factions.

In 1799, after being caught in a sleet and snow storm while riding on horseback across the farm he loved so well, Washington developed a severe throat infection called quinsy, which had turned into laryngitis and pneumonia.

At midnight Washington said to his secretary, Tobias Lear: "I am just going. Have me decently buried, and do not let my body be put into the vault in less than three days after I am dead. Do you understand me?"

Lear said, "Yes."

Washington's last words were, "'Tis well."2

Washington died on 14 December 1799, at the age of 67, with his close friends and personal secretary by his side.

After his death, Washington’s remains were buried at Mount Vernon.

Posthumous Honors

  • Washington’s death came as a big shock to the nation, and the American Army wore black bands as a sign of grief for the next six months.
  • When, forty days afterward, the news reached England, the flags of the great English fleet of sixty vessels lying in Torbay were lowered to half-mast.
  • Napoleon declared ten days of mourning throughout France and ordered a funeral oration to be pronounced before himself and the civil and military authorities of France.

Words From A Eulogy

"To the Memory of the Man, First In War, First In Peace and First In the Hearts Of His Countrymen, He Was Second To None In The Humble And Endearing Scenes of His Private Life."

Henry Lee, in his eulogy before Congress—Resolutions presented to the United States’ House of Representatives, on the Death of Washington, December 26,1799.

(Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee was a major general in the Continental Army, a member of the Continental Congress, a governor of Virginia. He was also the father of the famous Civil War general Robert E. Lee, and close friend of George Washington.)

Washington and Slaves

As Washington prepared his will, he drew up a list of the Mount Vernon slaves who belonged to either the Custis estate or to him. He found that altogether there were 316 enslaved men, women, and children living at Mount Vernon. By freeing his slaves, George Washington tried to set an example for others to follow. He was the only slaveholder among the founding fathers to free his slaves.

Mount Rushmore - George Washington - Thomas Jefferson - Theodore Roosevelt - Abraham Lincoln

Mount Rushmore - George Washington - Thomas Jefferson - Theodore Roosevelt - Abraham Lincoln

Washington Memorial - DC May 2009

Washington Memorial - DC May 2009

Washington Landmarks

  • Pope's Creek, Virginia (birthplace)
  • Mount Vernon, Virginia (homestead and grave)
  • Valley Forge National Historical Park - Valley Forge, Pa.
  • Washington Monument - Washington, D.C
  • Mount Rushmore National Memorial - Keystone, South Dakota
U. S. Mint - Image of George Washington - 2004 Proof Coin

U. S. Mint - Image of George Washington - 2004 Proof Coin



AJ Long (author) from Pennsylvania on June 11, 2014:

LoL I didn't remember that John! Thanks for the information. I looked it up and he bred hounds, and ultimately helped perfect another new breed, American foxhounds, which remain popular to this day. Thanks again John! :o)

John Chapman on June 11, 2014:

Washington had a dog named sweetlips

AJ Long (author) from Pennsylvania on March 26, 2014:

Shortcakepobders5 thanks so much for reading and adding your insightful comments to my Hub! Wow! I've been to Monticello but never have visited Mt Vernon. Congratulations on having visited historical places that have significance for you! The United States was blessed with a giant mortal in her infancy. May God grant us another giant at this stage of our history! Thanks again for your encouragement! :o)

Shortcakepobders5 on March 26, 2014:

I adore history. I've visited Mount Vernon and feel in love with the place. As I "met" Martha Washington I decided I needed to know more about the man who me she loved more than anything in the world and was willing to burn all hers and his letters to keep their lives private. Luckily, we were on a Washington D.C. Trip and I was able to follow the steps of ole' George's haunts. It was so educational.

This past month we went to Federal Hall in NY to sit on the steps where George was inaugurated as our first president. It was a thrill and inspiring. We ate where he ate while at Fraunces Tavern. Which is where he gave his last address to the soldiers of the Continental Army. I bow my head to his service of our country and his willingness to risk his life for being able to create the start to our freedom.

I thoroughly enjoyed this post on Washington on one page, Al. It was educational and well researched. Kudos.

AJ Long (author) from Pennsylvania on February 19, 2014:

I'll take your recommendation ahorseback! Thanks again!

ahorseback on February 19, 2014:

I too disliked Daniels , yet when he does such a serious role as GW , he nails everything I have ever read about him ! Good movie !

AJ Long (author) from Pennsylvania on February 18, 2014:

You are welcome ahorseback! Generally, I'm not a Jeff Daniels fan, but their have been some things he has done that I like (Fly Away Home for one). I'll have to cacth up with The Crossing!

ahorseback on February 18, 2014:

The crossing ! That's the one , you wont be dissed !....Thanks for this!

AJ Long (author) from Pennsylvania on February 18, 2014:

Thanks so much ChitrangadaSharan for reading and commenting! I appreciate the positive encouragement and recognition! :o)

AJ Long (author) from Pennsylvania on February 18, 2014:

Wonderful manatita44! thanks for reading and commenting. Yes, an incredible man. He came at the right time in history.

AJ Long (author) from Pennsylvania on February 18, 2014:

ahorseback thanks so much for reading and commenting! Googled it - it is called The Crossing. Don't think I've seen it! I'll have to give it a look. Thanks again!

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on February 18, 2014:

Excellent article, very well written and well researched!

Thanks for this interesting and insightful hub and congratulations for the well deserved HOTD!

manatita44 from london on February 18, 2014:

Special man. Indeed chosen my God Itself. I dedicated a Chapter of my book to the Founding Fathers and their contribution to America. Washington was a first-class Pioneer.

ahorseback on February 18, 2014:

Don't know the name of the movie , Jeff Daniels plays GW ! Awesome flick if you get the chance to watch it . Do!.....:-} +++++

AJ Long (author) from Pennsylvania on February 18, 2014:

Gypsy Rose Lee thanks so much for the positive feedback and for sharing. It was a surprise to be chosen Hub of the Day since I wrote this almost a year ago! Thanks again for sharing!

AJ Long (author) from Pennsylvania on February 18, 2014:

Oh thank you so much for the kind praise and sharing, Audrey! I love when people share birthdays with great people. I feel like it would be inspiring. Thanks fro reading and stopping by!

Gypsy Rose Lee from Daytona Beach, Florida on February 18, 2014:

Voted up and interesting. Absolutely incredible and fascination work. Lots of great information, pictures and video. Well done and passing this on.

Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on February 18, 2014:

So well written combining facts with interesting stories, this is really quite remarkable. I was born on his birthday. I will be sharing your post with family and friends. ~ Audrey

AJ Long (author) from Pennsylvania on February 17, 2014:

Thanks so much for reading and commenting guest! :o)

AJ Long (author) from Pennsylvania on February 17, 2014:

Wow! RTalloni thanks for taking the time to tell me how much you enjoyed my Hub. It took many hours to sift through the material and come up with a comprehensive yet concise summary of George Washington. I appreciate the information about the resources available. Interesting that the dates overlap with this man! Also, I am very much pro-homeschooling! Thanks again! :o)

AJ Long (author) from Pennsylvania on February 17, 2014:

Thanks so much Thief12! I appreciate the votes and you kind comments. :o)

AJ Long (author) from Pennsylvania on February 17, 2014:

MsDora, thanks for reading and adding your comments! I appreciate the feedback.

AJ Long (author) from Pennsylvania on February 17, 2014:

amiebutchko Thanks so much for adding your kind comments. I appreciate your reading and support! :o)

guest on February 17, 2014:

Well done

RTalloni on February 17, 2014:

Congratulations on your Hub of the Day award for this interesting post full of well organized facts. Studying men like Washington is important and it is insightful to read what they themselves wrote. Also, books that look at him in the context of the his writings and the times he lived (such as George Washington: Gentleman Warrior and When Washington Crossed the Delaware) can be found at the CBD homeschool curriculum site. On that note I can't help but mention The American Revolution: Writings from the War of Independence. This sight is particularly useful for young historians for it is particularly important for them to have access to accurate resources. BTW, it is always interesting to me that my daughter was born on George Washington's birthday and my birthday is the anniversary of his death.

Carlo Giovannetti from Puerto Rico on February 17, 2014:

Very interesting read, and congrats on HOTD!

Voted UP, and Interesting.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on February 17, 2014:

Congratulations on your HOTD accolade! Thank you for the detailed information on this auspicious personality. Well done!

Amie Butchko from Warwick, NY on February 17, 2014:

This hub is so informative, well-written and just visually beautiful. It makes you want to read it more than once to soak up all the info. Congrats on HOTD. Great job!

AJ Long (author) from Pennsylvania on March 30, 2013:

Ok, thanks PaoloJpm!

John Paolo B.Magdaluyo from Philippine on March 30, 2013:

I really can't recall what speech is that.Shame on me :) anyway,thanks, I'll comment again if I found it somewhere me brain.

AJ Long (author) from Pennsylvania on March 28, 2013:

PaoloJpm Which speech? Are wanting to know where I got something?

John Paolo B.Magdaluyo from Philippine on March 28, 2013:

Oh, since, you knew him so much, I would like to clarify something about his speech. which said 135 words I think? I am currently working a hub on how to make a speech. And I read something about his speech that I want to include as well.

AJ Long (author) from Pennsylvania on March 28, 2013:

PaoloJpm, thank you for your kind comment. Yes, he was an amazing man. Yes, it took me a long time to put it all into one article (and find the photos!). Thanks for stopping by!

John Paolo B.Magdaluyo from Philippine on March 28, 2013:

well created aj! its great to know Mr. Washington in one article!

AJ Long (author) from Pennsylvania on March 12, 2013:

girishpuri thanks so much for reading my Hub. Appreciate the feedback!

Girish puri from NCR , INDIA on March 12, 2013:

Very good information about George Washington, and a catchy heading too. God bless.

AJ Long (author) from Pennsylvania on March 11, 2013:

billd01603 thanks for taking the time to read and comment! George Washington's impact on our country's founding and the course of history cannot be underestimated!

billd01603 from Worcester on March 11, 2013:

Very Good and informative Hub, thanks

AJ Long (author) from Pennsylvania on March 09, 2013:

joshv82, thanks so much for reading ad commenting. I appreciate the kind comments and share! Yes I hadn't read about him for awhile and I rediscovered an amazing and talented human being. He was able to sidestep many of the trappings of power. Most modern day politicians would do well to follow his example!

Joshua Vick from Madison, WI on March 09, 2013:

Excellent hub. ajwrites57! Washington is a guy who everyone knows about but few fully appreciate. This hub is organized, accurate and well-written. Voted up and sharing.

AJ Long (author) from Pennsylvania on March 08, 2013:

dahoglund, thanks so much for reading and commenting. There is so much to his interesting life it was hard to write and cut things out. He was an amazing man! Thanks for sharing!

Don A. Hoglund from Wisconsin Rapids on March 08, 2013:

Very well done. Even for someone familiar with Washington's life it is an easy to read summation of his life and accomplishments. Up votes and shard.

AJ Long (author) from Pennsylvania on March 08, 2013:

Beth37, thanks for your understanding comments. It was easy when I started it. I set up a template, but that went the way of all flesh almost right away. I had to read many sources because they only dealt with certain aspects. I should have added more, but I forgot to--I will when I edit. After it was "ready to go", it still took me five hours with photos and the few quotes I have. Thanks for appreciating it and your kind owrds!

Beth37 on March 08, 2013:

Amazing! I can't imagine how much work this hub took... It's like a mini historical biography. :)

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