George Washington


George Washington was born on February 22nd, 1732. Washington was born into the provincial gentry of a wealthy, well-connected Colonial Virginia family who owned tobacco plantations and slaves.  There is no question that he was an unusual child. Since boyhood, he was obsessed with his reputation. Always wanting to be considered honorable and virtuous. As a boy he hand copied the rules of civility and decent behavior by Jesuit standards. As a boy he realized he's not on top of the social ladder and he was determined to learn the ways. At the tender age of eleven, his father past away and therefore he was forced to grow up quickly. 

He became personally and professionally attached to the powerful William Fairfax, who promoted his career as a surveyor and soldier.  He met William Fairfax through his half brother, Laurence Washington, who married into the powerful Fairfax family. George immersed himself in geometry and math. As a teenager George started conducting surveys for wealthy Virginia land owners, the profession both earned him money and respect. Surveyors were the social equals of physicians and lawyers. George was very much devastated when he lost his role model Laurence Washington. Laurence was declared to have tuberculosis, a death sentence in the 1740's. George eventually inherited Laurence's estate in Mr. Vernon and he then inherited a love for military weapons and uniforms.

Washington was a strong presence standing at 6'3. When he walked into a room there was an aura and a hush. Washington also had a desire for adventure and surveying quenched that desire by allowing him to travel and go deep into the wilderness. For any young military minded man, the ultimate adventure was war. In the 1750's both the French and the British claimed vast territories in the Ohio Valley's near present day Pittsburgh. Virginia Governor Roberto Dinwiddie wrote a stern letter, demanding the French abandon the area but delivering the ultimatum will mean a journey of five hundred miles through the wilderness of Virginia, Pennsylvania and all the way to Lake Erie. Twenty one year old George Washington, overflowing with ambition volunteered to lead a handful of men. The trip brough them face to face with unimaginable danger. Washington and his men very nearly drowned while crossing the Allegheny River but he completed the mission and delivered the ultimatum which the French ignored. When Washington returned he wrote a journal of this trip. His report of this trip in 1754 was on the front page of a newspaper and Washington received his first taste of glory.  

With the mentoring and ideology rooted in him from his father, half brother and William Fairfax, Washington quickly became a senior officer of the colonial forces during the first stages of the French and Indian War. Historians give Washington high marks for his selection and supervision of his generals; encouragement of morale and ability to hold together the army; coordination with the state governors and state militia units; relations with Congress; and attention to supplies, logistics, and training. As a result Washington would become the most dominant military and political leader of the new United States of America from 1775 to 1799.

From his earliest days he inspired the respect and loyalty of other soldiers. It was partly his courage and style. He developed himself as a horseman, fencer, and dancer. He also dressed the part with silver buttons on his clothes and medallions on his hat. He always designed his own uniforms for war. It was vanity but he knew that it was important for your sense of command and it's important for the figure you make in the world.

Given his background, it was almost inevitable that Washington would run for public office. Washington observed passionate debates about freedom and the rights of man. He rarely spoke but listened intently. He was there for sixteen years and never has taken lead or been the speaker but he is there analyzing how politics work. Through the 1760's many Americans were unhappy of the taxation going on, growing bitter at the British. When colonial leaders decided to create a boycott on British goods, Washington signed along with it. By 1774 full scale revolution was in the air. Delegates from all thirteen colonies met in Philadelphia for the first Continental Congress and Washington was elected to represent Virginia. While willing to go to war, he was also sickened of the thought because of the blood that will be shed.

Washington knew that war with the most powerful nation in the world will be horrific and that much of the cost will be on the wealthy Americans such as himself. Washington's major goal for going ahead into this war was his character and reputation he cared to maintain in his community. In 1775, the first shots were fired near Boston. With war looming, George Washington attended the second continental congress. He was the only delegate to arrive in full military uniform. Perhaps this was a strategy to declare himself as the person who should be commander and chief of the continental army. The delegates agreed and George Washington became the commander and chief. 

In July of 1775 Washington gained command of the rebels, they were armature soldiers and weekend warriors about to face the most powerful military machine the world. As he inspected the troops on Massachusetts his first move was to remove any doubts of his competence. Sectional jelousy was very strong. New England was one of these areas of resentment a Virginia man will now come to lead them. Washington was extremely aware of public relations and his own image. He served without pay and asking only that his expenses be covered and he kept a ledger to account for every penny he spent. Typically one of his first purchases was a ribbon to distinguish him.

Washington was appalled at the condition of his troops. The New Englanders lacked training, supplies and discipline. His goal was to mold the rebels into a professional army and a polite one. One of his first orders that his troops stop the use of profane language. It was one order the commander himself found difficult to follow. Washington had a temper but he kept a pretty tight reign over it.

In July of 1776 the Declaration of Independence was read throughout the colonies and there can be no turning back. In New York City a mob ripped down a statue of King George III and melted the statue then turned into bullets. In England the real King George was enraged and decided to take action. The king sent down more than thirty thousand soldiers with orders to reclaim the rebellious colonies however it took. The red coats easily took over New York and defeated Washington troops in nearby battles. The Americans were being slaughter and the British expected them to surrender, instead Washington decided to retreat. He led four thousand men southwest through New Jersey with the British in close pursuit. Just months after the Glorious 4th of July, the new republic was facing its demise. Washington willing to die fighting, him and his men finally crossed the Delaware River and took refuge in Pennsylvania.

One week before Christmas of 1776 he wrote to his older brother and said “No man has ever had a greater choice of difficulty in less means to extricate himself from them”. His difficulties go far worse when many of his volunteers were near the end of their enrollment and all wanting to go back home but in the final days of 1776 and the new days of the New Year George Washington altered the course of the war. First came is audacious attack on Trenton. Christmas night Washington lead his troops, which he described as pitiful crossed the icy Delaware waters into New Jersey. After the crossing two divisions marched nine miles to fight German mercenaries who were hired to fight along with the British. They defeated the Hessian soldiers and now turned into an army of force with their arms of the Hessians and their food. This was the start for Washington and a few days later traveled to Princeton where he found himself in a battle with two British regiments. This was a critical battle for the revolutionary army and Washington is famously known for being in the midst of the battles in his white horse wanting to fight the British alone if he had to.

Valley Forge, Pennsylvania is where Washington decided to set up and build his raggedy army. With eleven thousand soldiers nearly a quarter died from exposure or disease in the cold winters. Washington had a choice to go home and leave his troops at the camps but always chose to stay with the soldiers. One order he denied his troops was for their wives to come visit but he always had Martha come and visit which shows how much respect he had for her and how he respected her input and gained strength from her. In this camp he whipped the soldiers into shape, they were trained with military tactics and for more inspiration Washington had they read the revolutionary pamphlets of Thomas Pain. Finally Washington thought he can fight the British on more equal terms and in June of 1778 he got his wish at Monmouth New Jersey. On this afternoon they fought a large army of these red coats. While officially a draw the battle in Monmouth was a moral victory for the continental army. The revolution will go on with both sides fighting to control the Hudson River in the north. It started becoming more evident that the Americans will win the war, especially when France joined with the Americans. The turnaround came from his patients. Technically he only won three battles, lost four and tied one but his patients is what made him great which brought him the superior strategic understanding. His strategy in 1781 was to engage the British in one final battle. From his camp north of New York City, Washington march three hundred miles to York town Virginia. A crucial port controlled by the British and General Cornwallis. Washington troops dominated on the ground and French ships on the sea. Trapped on all sides the British had no choice but to surrender in October of 1781.

Word spread throughout all the colonies that the American Revolution was all but over. The new republic had its first cause for jubilation and its first national hero, George Washington. Many had doubts that the nation can be run by a republic because there were no examples to follow. One person even wrote a letter to George Washington with a suggestion that Washington should be the King and the colonies run as a monarchy, Washington wrote back very sternly opposing this idea and to never make this idea public. Some had suggestions to run the nation by the military. There was a faction of officers who felt that they should take over the country, Washington found out about it and one of those marvelous moments in history Washington walked unannounced into the meeting where all the officers have been assembled and told them flat out that anyone thinking of going ahead with the idea is not a friend of George Washington and not a friend of the country and that faction was disregarded.

As the war ended Washington was fifty one years old and traveled to Maryland to resign and bid farewell to his troops. At that point he just wanted to return back to his family and farm. By giving up his authority Washington would shake a precedent that would affect the whole nation. It was almost unthinkable for anyone to relinquish power especially for a man that can have any office he desired. When King George was told that George Washington relinquished his power and returned back to being an ordinary citizen, King George stated then “By God sir he is the greatest man in the world”

After the revolution he will return to his farm tending to his crops, he will also add more additions to his mansion in Mt. Vernon. He also devised new ways to grow crops and even breed animals. He received one Jack Ass from the King of Spain and with that he was able to bring a mule to the united states and introduce a more durable, stronger specimen to American farming. During Washington retirement the United States were anything but untied with colonies fighting over tariffs and borders. Held together by the Articles of Confederation, enacted during the revolution. There was a feeble government at this time. Political Leaders called for Americas greatest minds to create a new constitution but a constitutional convention will be incomplete without George Washington because without George everyone will feel comfortable that this meeting was not a power grab because George was once the most powerful man and gave it up. George was reluctant to attend but knew that a constitution was essential. George Washington was named the president of the convention and even in the heat of Philadelphia the windows were kept tightly shut to make sure no one can eavesdrop and their deliberations. Thomas Jefferson called this a gathering of demigods. And the greatest demigod of them all was George Washington. As usual he was courteous with everyone and intimate with no one. One afternoon a delegate name Gouverneur Morris bet with a colleague that he can put his hand on the soldiers of Washington. That evening Morris approached Washington as said “General I am happy to see you looking so well” Washington’s reaction was to quickly remove that hand from his soldier, take a step back and stare in silence at Gouverneur Morris.

He led the American victory over Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army from 1775 to 1783, and presided over the writing of the Constitution in 1787. Washington was unanimously voted to serve as the first President of the United States from 1789 to 1797. He would be the only President in US history to be unanimously voted President. Washington presided over the creation of a strong, well-financed national government that stayed neutral in the wars raging in Europe, suppressed rebellion and won acceptance among Americans of all types. His leadership style established many forms and rituals of government that have been used since, such as using a cabinet system and delivering an inaugural address.

When Washington died in 1799, it set off a national outpouring of grief. The second president John Adams called him the most beloved person this country has ever produced. The democracy he called government soon began to flourish.  Washington is universally regarded as the "Father of his Country". 



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