The Good and the Beautiful George Washington Biography


    The Good and the Beautiful George Washington Biography

    George Washington was a military officer, politician, and Founding Father who led Patriot forces to victory in the American Revolutionary War and served as president of the Constitutional Convention.

    Washington's first public office was as surveyor of Culpeper County in the Colony of Virginia. He was then twice elected president by the Electoral College unanimously and set enduring precedents for the office of president, including republicanism, a peaceful transfer of power, and the two-term tradition.

    Washington's image is an icon of American culture, and he has been memorialized by monuments, a federal holiday, various media depictions, and geographic locations.

    The Good and the Beautiful George Washington Biography

    Early life (1732–1752)

    George Washington was born on February 22, 1732, at Popes Creek in Westmoreland County, Virginia. As a teenager, he compiled over a hundred rules for social interaction styled Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation, copied from an English translation of a French book of manners.

    Washington visited Mount Vernon and Belvoir, the plantations of William Fairfax, Lawrence's father-in-law, and received a surveyor's license from the College of William & Mary. He became surveyor of Culpeper County, Virginia, and owned 2,315 acres (937 ha) by 1752.

    In 1751, Washington left mainland North America for the first time, and contracted smallpox. He inherited Mount Vernon from his widow Anne in 1761.

    Colonial military career (1752–1758)

    Lawrence Washington's service as adjutant general of the Virginia militia inspired George Washington to seek a commission. Dinwiddie appointed Washington as a special envoy, and Washington met with Half-King Tanacharison and other Iroquois chiefs to gather further intelligence about the French forces.

    Washington's party reached the Ohio River in November 1753, and was received in a friendly manner by the French commander Saint-Pierre. The French refused to leave, but gave Washington food and winter clothing for his party's journey back to Virginia.

    French and Indian War

    Dinwiddie promoted Washington to lieutenant colonel and second-in-command of the 300-strong Virginia Regiment, and Washington set out with half the regiment in April to confront French forces at the Forks of the Ohio. Washington took the offensive on May 28 and killed several French forces.

    The full Virginia Regiment joined Washington at Fort Necessity the following month, but a conflict of command ensued and Washington surrendered to a French force on July 3. He signed a surrender document in which he unwittingly took responsibility for "assassinating" Jumonville.

    Washington served as an aide to General Edward Braddock, who led a British expedition to expel the French from Fort Duquesne and the Ohio Country. While suffering from severe dysentery, Washington was left behind and rallied the survivors, allowing the remnants of the force to disengage and retreat.

    Washington clashed with John Dagworthy over seniority and a royal commission with Braddock's successors, William Shirley and Lord Loudoun. Shirley ruled in Washington's favor only in the matter of Dagworthy, and Loudoun humiliated Washington.

    Washington was assigned to the British Forbes Expedition to capture Fort Duquesne, but resigned after seeing a friendly fire incident that left 14 dead and 26 injured.

    Under Washington, the Virginia Regiment defended 300 miles of frontier against twenty Indian attacks in ten months, and Virginia's frontier population suffered less than other colonies.

    Marriage, civilian, and political life (1755–1775)

    Washington married Martha Dandridge Custis on January 6, 1759, and they had two children together, John Parke Custis (Jacky) and Martha Parke Custis (Patsy). Washington raised Jacky and Patsy's children, Eleanor Parke Custis (Nelly) and George Washington Parke Custis (Washy).

    Washington's marriage to Martha gave him control over her one-third dower interest in the 18,000-acre (7,300 ha) Custis estate, and he increased the size of Mount Vernon to 6,500 acres (2,600 ha) and increased its slave population by more than a hundred.

    Washington was a respected military hero and large landowner who held local offices and was elected to the Virginia provincial legislature. He imported luxuries and other goods from England, paying for them by exporting tobacco, leaving him £1,800 in debt by 1764.

    Washington soon was counted among the political and social elite in Virginia, and hosted some 2,000 guests at Mount Vernon. He also took time for leisure with fox hunting, fishing, dances, theater, cards, backgammon, and billiards.

    Opposition to the British Parliament and Crown

    Washington played a central role before and during the American Revolution. He was opposed to taxes imposed by the British Parliament on the Colonies without proper representation, and he helped lead widespread protests against the Townshend Acts passed by Parliament in 1767.

    Washington saw the Coercive Acts as an invasion of American rights and privileges, and helped draft a list of resolutions to end the Atlantic slave trade. The American Revolutionary War broke out on April 19, 1775, with the Battles of Lexington and Concord and the Siege of Boston.

    Commander in chief (1775–1783)

    On June 14, 1775, Congress created the Continental Army and unanimously elected John Adams as its commander-in-chief. Washington was commissioned on June 19 and officially appointed by Congress as "General & Commander in chief of the army of the United Colonies".

    Washington initially banned blacks from joining the Continental Army, but relented when the British issued a proclamation promising freedom to slaves who joined the British. By the end of the war, one-tenth of Washington's army were blacks.

    Siege of Boston

    In response to the growing rebellious movement, London sent British troops to occupy Boston, but local militias trapped the British troops.

    As Washington headed for Boston, word of his march preceded him, and he was greeted everywhere. He instituted Benjamin Franklin's suggested reforms, and petitioned Gage, his former superior, to release captured Patriot officers from prison and treat them humanely.

    The Continental Army, supplemented with militia, captured heavy artillery from Fort Ticonderoga, and on March 9, 1776, bombarded British ships in Boston harbor. On March 17, Washington entered the city with 500 men, with explicit orders not to plunder the city.

    Battle of Long Island

    After the victory at Boston, Washington correctly guessed that the British would return to New York City, a Loyalist stronghold, and retaliate. He ordered the construction of fortifications to thwart the expected British attack, and ordered his troops to treat civilians and their property with respect.

    Howe's army totaled 32,000 regulars and Hessian auxiliaries, and Washington's army consisted of 23,000, mostly raw recruits and militia. Washington chose to fight, based on inaccurate information that Howe's army had only 8,000-plus troops, and suffered 1,500 Patriot casualties, the British suffering 400.

    Howe's pursuit forced Washington to retreat across the Hudson River to Fort Lee to avoid encirclement, and Washington blamed Congress and General Greene for delaying the retreat. Patriot morale reached its lowest point when Lee was captured.

    Crossing the Delaware, Trenton, and Princeton

    Washington crossed the Delaware River into Pennsylvania, where his replacement General John Sullivan joined him with 2,000 more troops. The future of the Continental Army was in doubt due to lack of supplies, a harsh winter, expiring enlistments, and desertions.

    Washington personally risked capture while staking out the Jersey shoreline alone leading up to the crossing of the Delaware River, but made it across with no losses. Knox and Cadwalader failed to cross due to the ice and heavy currents.

    The troops spotted Hessian positions a mile from Trenton, so Washington split his force into two columns, rallied his men, and led his men in a surprise attack on the unsuspecting Hessians and their commander, Colonel Johann Rall.

    Washington retreated across the Delaware to Pennsylvania and returned to New Jersey on January 3, 1777, launching an attack on British regulars at Princeton, where he killed 40 Americans and 273 British killed or captured. Washington took up winter headquarters in Jacob Arnold's Tavern in Morristown, New Jersey.

    Washington ordered the inoculation of Continental troops against smallpox, which proved successful, with only isolated infections occurring.

    The British controlled New York, and many Patriot soldiers did not re-enlist or deserted after the harsh winter campaign. Washington's victories at Trenton and Princeton revived Patriot morale and changed the course of the war.

    Brandywine, Germantown, and Saratoga

    In September 1777, British General John Burgoyne led the Saratoga campaign south from Quebec through Lake Champlain and recaptured Fort Ticonderoga intending to divide New England, including control of the Hudson River. However, General Howe blundered, taking his army south to Philadelphia rather than up the Hudson River to join Burgoyne near Albany.

    Valley Forge and Monmouth

    Washington and his Continental Army lost between 2,000 and 3,000 men due to disease and lack of food, clothing, and shelter at Valley Forge, and were facing lowered morale and increased desertions among his troops by February.

    Washington made repeated petitions to Congress for provisions, and in late February, Congress agreed to strengthen and fund the army's supply lines by reorganizing the commissary department. Meanwhile, Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben's incessant drilling transformed Washington's recruits into a disciplined fighting force.

    Washington summoned a war council of American and French generals and chose to attack the retreating British at the Battle of Monmouth. He achieved a draw after an expansive battle.

    West Point espionage

    Washington became America's first spymaster by designing an espionage system against the British. He disregarded incidents of disloyalty by Benedict Arnold, who began supplying British spymaster John André with sensitive information intended to compromise Washington and capture West Point.

    Washington gave Arnold command of West Point in August, but upon hearing the news of André's capture, Arnold fled to HMS Vulture, the ship that had brought André to West Point, and escaped to New York. Washington assumed personal command at West Point and reorganized its defenses.

    Southern theater and Yorktown

    In June 1778, Iroquois warriors killed more than 200 frontiersmen in Northeastern Pennsylvania. In mid-1779, Washington ordered General John Sullivan to lead an expedition to force the Iroquois out of New York by systematically destroying their villages and food stocks.

    Clinton assembled 12,500 troops and attacked Charles Town, South Carolina, defeating General Benjamin Lincoln. Washington was reinvigorated when Lafayette returned from France with more ships, men, and supplies, and 5,000 veteran French troops led by Marshal Rochambeau arrived at Newport, Rhode Island.

    General Clinton sent Benedict Arnold to Virginia to capture Portsmouth and conduct raids on Patriot forces. Washington sent Lafayette south to counter Arnold's efforts, and made a feint towards Clinton in New York, then headed south to Virginia.


    The siege of Yorktown was a decisive victory for the combined forces of the Continental Army commanded by Washington, the French Army commanded by General Comte de Rochambeau, and the French Navy commanded by Admiral de Grasse.

    By late September, Patriot-French forces surrounded Yorktown, trapped the British Army, and prevented British reinforcements from Clinton in the North. The British surrendered on October 19, 1781, and the war ended with the Treaty of Paris in September 1783.

    Demobilization and resignation

    When peace negotiations began in April 1782, both the British and French began gradually evacuating their forces. Washington calmed the Newburgh Conspiracy and submitted an account of $450,000 in expenses, which was settled, though it was allegedly vague about large sums.

    The Treaty of Paris was signed on September 3, 1783, and Washington disbanded his army. He took possession of New York City on November 25, 1783.

    Washington resigned as commander-in-chief in early December 1783 and was appointed president-general of the Society of the Cincinnati, a newly established hereditary fraternity of Revolutionary War officers. He served in this capacity for the remainder of his life.

    Return to Mount Vernon

    Washington returned home on Christmas Eve, delighted to be free of the bustle of a camp and the busy scenes of public life.

    Washington reactivated his interests in the Great Dismal Swamp and Potomac canal projects begun before the war, and oversaw the completion of the remodeling work at Mount Vernon, although his financial situation was not strong. He began breeding mules to make his estate profitable again.

    Constitutional Convention of 1787

    Washington called for a strong union before returning to private life in June 1783, and when Shays' Rebellion erupted in Massachusetts over taxation, he was further convinced that a national constitution was needed. Congress agreed to a Constitutional Convention in Spring 1787.

    Washington was chosen to lead the Virginia delegation to the Constitutional Convention, but declined on December 21. James Madison, Henry Knox, and others persuaded him to attend the convention and recommend that the new government be established when the resulting document was "duly confirmed by the several states".

    Washington wrote to Alexander Hamilton that he almost despairs of seeing a favorable issue to the proceedings of the convention, but lent his prestige to the work of the other delegates.

    Chancellor of William & Mary

    In 1788, the Board of Visitors of the College of William & Mary elected Washington to the position of Chancellor, and Washington continued to serve until his death in 1799.

    First presidential election

    Washington was elected president after a Congressional quorum was reached on April 5. John Adams was elected vice president and he departed for New York City on April 16 to be inaugurated.

    Presidency (1789–1797)

    Washington was inaugurated on April 30, 1789, taking the oath of office at Federal Hall in New York City. He preferred the title "Mr. President" over more majestic names proposed by the Senate, and established executive precedents including the inaugural address, messages to Congress, and the cabinet form of the executive branch.

    Washington planned to resign after his first term, but political strife convinced him to remain in office. He tolerated opposing views, conducted a smooth transition of power to his successor, and favored a strong central government.

    Cabinet and executive departments

    Washington's cabinet members formed rival parties with sharply opposing views, and he restricted cabinet discussions to topics of his choosing. He expected department heads to agreeably carry out his decisions.

    Domestic issues

    Washington was apolitical and opposed the formation of parties, but his closest advisors formed two factions, portending the First Party System. Washington favored Hamilton's agenda, but it ultimately went into effect.

    Washington proclaimed November 26, 1789, as a day of Thanksgiving to encourage national unity. He spent the day fasting and visiting debtors in prison.

    African Americans

    In response to antislavery petitions, Washington and Congress passed a series of racist measures, including the Fugitive Slave Act, which allowed agents to cross state lines to return escaped slaves.

    Washington signed the Northwest Ordinance in 1789, which freed all slaves brought after 1787, and the Slave Trade Act of 1794, which sharply limited American involvement in the Atlantic slave trade.

    National Bank

    Washington's first term was largely devoted to economic concerns, and the establishment of public credit became a primary challenge for the federal government. The Compromise of 1790 authorized the assumption and payment of the nation's debts.

    Hamilton caused controversy in Cabinet by advocating for the establishment of the First Bank of the United States. Washington sided with Hamilton and signed the bank legislation on February 25, 1791.

    Jefferson–Hamilton feud

    Jefferson and Hamilton adopted diametrically opposed political principles, and their feud led to the formation of the Federalist and Republican parties. Washington remained aloof from congressional attacks on Hamilton, but did not publicly protect him.

    Whiskey Rebellion

    Grain farmers protested against the excise tax on distilled spirits, and on August 2 Washington assembled his cabinet to discuss the situation. On August 7, Washington issued his first proclamation for calling up state militias.

    Threats and violence against tax collectors escalated into defiance against federal authority in 1794, and Washington invoked the Militia Act of 1792 to summon state militias. The militias took 150 prisoners, and Washington exercised his Constitutional authority for the first time and pardoned them.

    Foreign affairs

    Washington declared America's neutrality in the French Revolutionary Wars, but was disappointed by the Jay Treaty, which normalized trade relations with Britain while removing them from western forts and resolving financial debts remaining from the Revolution.

    The United States modified the boundary with Canada, liquidated numerous pre-Revolution debts, and secured peace with Britain. The treaty angered France, and relations deteriorated afterward.

    Native American affairs

    Washington had to contend with the British refusing to evacuate their forts and the Indian tribes attacking American settlers.

    Washington declared that the government of the United States would administer Indian affairs in accordance with the great principles of justice and humanity. He even smoked a peace pipe and drank wine with powerful tribes.

    Negotiations failed between federal commissioners and raiding Indian tribes seeking retribution. Washington invited Creek Chief Alexander McGillivray to New York to negotiate a treaty.

    Washington sent Josiah Harmar to pacify the Northwest tribes, but Little Turtle routed him twice and forced him to withdraw. He replaced Major General Arthur St. Clair with the Revolutionary War hero Anthony Wayne, who defeated the Northwestern Confederacy at the Battle of Fallen Timbers.

    Second term

    Washington initially planned to retire after his first term, weary of office and in poor health. However, many urged him to run for a second term, and he relented when the election of 1792 neared.

    Washington was re-elected president and sworn into office on March 4, 1793. He gave a brief address before immediately retiring to the President's House.

    When the French Revolutionary Wars broke out, Washington issued a proclamation declaring American neutrality and warning Americans not to intervene in the conflict. However, Washington's relationship with his Secretary of War Henry Knox deteriorated after rumors that Knox had profited from contracts for the construction of U.S. frigates.

    In the final months of his presidency, Washington was assailed by a partisan press and retired from politics to ensure a truly contested presidential election.

    Farewell Address

    In May 1792, Washington instructed James Madison to prepare a "valedictory address", which he sent to Alexander Hamilton in May 1796.

    Washington stressed the importance of national identity, warned against partisanship and foreign entanglements, and encouraged friendship and commerce with all nations, but advised against involvement in European wars. He favored Hamilton's Federalist ideology and economic policies.

    Many Republicans criticized the Farewell Address after its initial publication, but in 1972, Washington scholar James Flexner referred to the Address as receiving as much acclaim as Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence and Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.


    Washington retired to Mount Vernon in March 1797 and devoted time to his plantations and other business interests. He supported the Alien and Sedition Acts and convinced John Marshall to run for Congress.

    Washington grew restless in retirement, and offered to organize President Adams' army. Adams nominated Washington for a lieutenant general commission and the position of commander-in-chief of the armies, and Washington served as the commanding general from July 13, 1798, until his death 17 months later.

    Washington's wealth was in land and slaves, and he erected a distillery to supplement his income. He sold land parcels to middle-income investors to spur development around the new Federal City named in his honor.

    Final days and death

    On December 12, 1799, Washington inspected his farms on horseback, returned home late, had guests for dinner, and sat down for the meal without changing his damp clothes from the inclement weather of the day. The next morning, Washington complained of chest congestion and difficulty breathing.

    Washington's death came more swiftly than expected, and he instructed his private secretary Tobias Lear to wait three days before his burial. The funeral was held four days after his death at Mount Vernon, and Martha wore a black mourning cape for one year.

    The diagnosis of Washington's illness and the immediate cause of his death have been subjects of debate since his death. Modern medical authors have concluded that he likely died from severe epiglottitis complicated by the treatments.

    Burial, net worth, and aftermath

    Washington's estate was worth $587 million in 1799, including 300 slaves, and he held title to more than 65,000 acres of land.

    In 1830, a disgruntled ex-employee attempted to steal Washington's skull, prompting the construction of a new vault at Mount Vernon.

    In 1832, a joint Congressional committee debated moving Washington's body from Mount Vernon to a crypt in the United States Capitol. Southern opposition was intense, antagonized by an ever-growing rift between North and South, and Washington's remains stayed in Mount Vernon.

    Personal life

    Washington was reserved in personality, but was known for his strong presence. He was taller than most of his contemporaries, weighed between 210 - 220 pounds, and had grey-blue eyes and long reddish-brown hair.

    Washington suffered from severe tooth decay and eventually lost all his teeth. He had several sets of false teeth, which he treated with laudanum.

    Washington was a talented equestrian and hunted foxes, deer, ducks, and other game. He drank alcohol in moderation and attended the theater.

    Religious and spiritual views

    Washington was descended from Lawrence Washington, an Anglican minister whose troubles with the Church of England may have prompted his heirs to emigrate to America. He served more than 20 years as a vestryman and churchwarden.

    Washington believed in a Creator God who was active in the Universe, protected his life, and was involved in American politics. He avoided evangelistic Christianity and hellfire-and-brimstone speech along with communion, and rarely mentioned Jesus Christ in his private correspondence.

    Washington emphasized religious toleration in a nation with numerous denominations and religions, and recognized major religious sects and gave speeches on religious toleration. He was attracted to the Masons' dedication to the Enlightenment principles of rationality, reason, and brotherhood.

    Washington was initiated into a Masonic lodge in Fredericksburg, Virginia in 1752 and progressed through its ranks to become a Master Mason. He declined to become the Grand Master of the newly established Grand Lodge of Virginia in 1777.

    Washington's slaves

    Washington owned and rented enslaved African Americans, and at the time of his death he was renting 41 slaves.

    Washington's view on slavery changed during the Revolutionary War, as he began to question the system's economic efficiency. His disillusionment with the institution was spurred by the principles of the Revolution and revolutionary friends such as Lafayette and Hamilton.

    Washington's slaves received two hours off for meals during the workday and were given time off on Sundays and religious holidays. They were kept working hard from dawn to dusk year-round and faced growing debts involved with supporting slaves.

    Washington used reward and punishment to encourage discipline and productivity in his slaves. He believed "watchfulness and admonition" were better deterrents against transgressions, but would punish those who "will not do their duty by fair means".

    During his presidency, Washington brought several of his slaves to the federal capital, and rotated them periodically between the capital and Mount Vernon. One of his slaves, Ona Judge, escaped to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and was never found.

    Washington owned 124 slaves, leased 40, and held 153 for his wife's dower interest. The plantation operated at a loss because of the large slave population.

    Abolition and manumission

    Based on his private papers and accounts from contemporaries, Washington slowly developed a cautious sympathy toward abolitionism, but remained publicly silent on the topic of slavery.

    Washington's views on slavery changed during the Revolutionary War, and he expressed his desire to see the institution of slavery ended by a gradual legislative process. He significantly reduced his purchases of slaves after the war but continued to acquire them in small numbers.

    Washington declined to establish an abolitionist society in Virginia, stating that the time was not yet right. He never responded to any antislavery petitions.

    Washington instructed his secretary to find buyers for his land in western Virginia, but failed to realize his plan because he was reluctance to break up slave families and the Custis heirs refused to help prevent such separations.

    On July 9, 1799, Washington finished making his last will and testament. It provided that all his slaves be freed after the death of his wife, and that old and young freed people be taken care of indefinitely.

    Martha Washington freed George Washington's slaves one year after his death, but many were reluctant to leave Mount Vernon. Funds were used to feed and clothe them until the early 1830s.

    Historical reputation and legacy

    Washington's legacy endures as one of the most influential in American history, and he is among the highest-ranked U.S. Presidents. He set many precedents for the national government and the presidency in particular.

    Washington was the leader of the first successful revolution against a colonial empire and was made the symbol of his party, but the Jeffersonians continued to distrust his influence and delayed building the Washington Monument.

    Mason Locke Weems wrote a hagiographic biography of Washington in 1809, which historians have criticized for trying to humanize Washington and inspire patriotism and morality. However, historian John Ferling maintains that Washington's character has been the most scrutinized by historians.

    Washington's reputation has been critically scrutinized in the 21st century. Ron Chernow describes Washington as always trying to be even-handed in dealing with the Natives, while Colin G. Calloway states that Washington had a lifelong obsession with getting Indian land.

    Washington was condemned for holding enslaved people, and some activists want to remove his name from public buildings and his statue from public spaces.

    Places, namesakes, and monuments

    Washington was named after several places and monuments, including Washington, D.C., the capital of the United States, and the state of Washington. The Washington Monument, a 555-foot marble obelisk, was dedicated on February 21, 1885.

    পরবর্তী পোস্ট পূর্ববর্তী পোস্ট
    কোন মন্তব্য নেই
    এই পোস্ট সম্পর্কে আপনার মন্তব্য জানান

    দয়া করে নীতিমালা মেনে মন্তব্য করুন - অন্যথায় আপনার মন্তব্য গ্রহণ করা হবে না।

    comment url