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George Washington Biography


GEORGE WASHINGTON: In all aspects the "Father of his country"
The face which appears on the US dollar bill and on hundreds of schools and towns is none other than the George Washington, widely addressed as the “Father of his country.”
George Washington
Many roles played by him stand as a testimony to exemplify the extraordinary character and leadership of George Washington. Persistently ranked amidst the top three presidents of the United States, he is no doubt a revolutionary figure.

He is hailed today as one of the Founding Fathers of the United States apart from being remembered as the first president of the United States and the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War.

His Early Life and Education
George Washington was born on 22 February 1732 at Pope’s Creek in Westmoreland County, Virginia which lies 40 miles south of Mount Vernon. He was the first child of Augustine Washington and his second wife Mary Ball Washington. Augustine’s first wife Janet Butler had died in 1729 leaving behind two sons and a daughter. With Mary Ball Washington, Augustine had six children of which George Washington was the eldest.

His great-grandfather John Washington migrated from England to Virginia in 1657. His father Augustine Washington, said to be an ambitious man was a slave-owning tobacco planter. He had a keen interest in opening iron mines. The family resided on Pope’s Creek in Westmoreland County, Virginia and were reasonable members of Virginia’s "middling class."

In the year 1735, the family moved towards the Potomac River, another Washington family residence, Little Hunting Creek Plantation (or what later became “Mount Vernon”). They again shifted to Ferry Farm on the Rappahannock River, located opposite Fredericksburg, Virginia. It was here that George Washington is said to have spent much of his childhood.

George Washington’s childhood is shrouded in mystery. Not much is really known. According to popular beliefs,
George was schooled at home from age seven to fifteen. He also studied with the local church sexton and studied geography, practical math, Latin, and English classics with a schoolmaster. He became an adept in growing tobacco, and raising stock.

When George was just 11 years old, his father died. George found a role model in his half brother Lawrence who gave him a good upbringing. Lawrence played a key role in shaping George’s life. It was from him that George learned trigonometry and developed a taste for novels, music, ethics and theater. Lawrence had inherited Little Hunting Creek Plantation and went on to marry Anne Fairfax, who was the daughter of the then Colonel William Fairfax. Under Anne’s guidance George was enlightened on the finer aspects of the colonial culture.

George’s education at England’s Appleby School (where his older brothers went) was cut short due to his father’s death. Adventurous by nature he wanted to be a part of the Royal Navy when he was 15, but the idea was dropped after his widowed mother opposed. Due to the family’s strong connection with the Fairfax family, Washington became the official surveyor for Culpeper County in 1749 at the age of 17. Lawrence was then a part of the Ohio Company and a commander of the Virginia militia and this position of Lawrence made George come under the notice of Robert Dinwiddie, the new lieutenant governor of Virginia.

After Lawrence’s death, his position Adjutant General (militia leader) of Virginia was split into four offices. Dinwiddie appointed George Washington as one of the four district adjutants in 1753 along with the rank of major in the Virginia militia. He also became a part of the Freemasons fraternal association in Fredericksburg around this time. Upon Lawrence’s death, Washington also became the head of Mount Vernon, Virginia’s most well-known estates. He eventually went on to increase his landholdings to around 8, 000 acres.

The Initial Phase of his Military Career
Early 1750s saw France and Britain at peace. However, gradually the French military started occupying most part of the Ohio County a territory that was already part of the British colonies of Pennsylvania and Virginia. Virginia’s Lieutenant Governor, Robert Dinwiddie sent the 21-year-old George Washington to deliver an ultimatum to stop the encroachment from the land. The mission failed as the French politely refused to comply with the order.

In a few months time, Dinwiddie sent Washington to Ohio country with 150 men to drive away the intruders. It was at this time that he received the first taste of war. They set up a post at Great Meadows known as “Fort Necessity.” Washington’s men attacked the French post at Fort Duquesne and killed the commander, Coulon de Jumonville, nine others, and imprisoned the remaining. Washington went back to his retreat “Fort Necessity.” The French surrounded the fort forcing Washington to surrender. Washington was left much humiliated. In 1755, he became the senior American volunteer aide to Edward Braddock a British General, and partook in the unsuccessful campaign against, Crown Point, and Fort Niagara. The intention was to drive away the French from the Ohio Country. The encounter left Washington severely injured, though he showed much bravery.

As a reward, Washington was conferred with a commission as "Colonel of the Virginia Regiment and Commander in Chief of all forces now raised in the defense of His Majesty’s Colony." He also allotted him the task of defending the frontier of Virginia. This turned out to be a frustrating task and his health deteriorated.

In 1758, he joined the Forbes Expedition, the intention of which was to capture Fort Duquesne. There was a friendly fire incident that left 14 men of Washington killed and 26 of them injured. The British emerged victorious taking control of Fort Duquesne and of Ohio Valley. Following the event Washington retired from his Virginia regiment in December of 1758. He wanted to gain a commission with the British Army, but his application was denied. He resigned his commission and returned to Mount Vernon disappointed.

Marriage and Expansion of Mount Vernon
Washington got married on 6 January 1759 to Martha Dandridge Custis, a charming widow, few months older to him and a mother of two, along with her tagged enormous fortune: an 18,000 acre estate. From this Washington acquired around 6,000 acres. Washington emerged as one of Virginia’s wealthy landowners. He showered a lot of love and affection on his two step-children John (Jacky) aged 6 and Martha (Patsy) aged 4. However, Patsy died before the onset of the Revolution and Jacky died during the Revolution leaving Martha and Washington totally devastated.

He then devoted his time to take care of his crops and livestock and kept experimenting with new crops, crop rotation, fertilizers, etc. He worked painstakingly to expand his plantation. He not only grew a large variety of crops, but also bred mules and maintained fruit orchards. His intention to make Mount Vernon a profitable estate led him to include commercial fishing and flour milling. Washington was an innovative landowner and in the years that followed he stretched Mount Vernon from 2,000 acres to an 8,000 acre property that included five farms. Around this time, he also made an entry into politics and was also elected to Virginia’s House of Burgesses in the year 1758.

American Revolution (1775-1783)
Washington was against the 1765 Stamp Act and was also irritated with the British Proclamation Act of 1763 that did not grant permission for settlement beyond the Alleghenies. The letters he wrote during this time clearly stated how much he was totally opposed to the colonies declaring independence.

A proposal was drafted in May 1769 by his friend George Mason, which demanded Virginia to boycott the English goods till the Acts was annulled. Parliament annulled the Townshend Acts in 1770. Following the passage of the Intolerable Acts in the year 1774, Washington held a meeting in which the “Fairfax Resolves” were approved. He attended the First Virginia Convention and was subsequently selected as a delegate to the First Continental Congress in the year 1774 in Philadelphia.

In the summer of 1775, Washington attended the second Continental Congress decked in military uniform signaling his preparedness for war. By this time the American Revolution had almost started and Washington was made commander in chief of the Continental Army. He went on to prove a great general. His efforts to keep the colonial army together bore fruitful results. Though his troops were untrained, without food and ammunition, Washington boosted their confidence, gave them direction and motivated them to keep moving forward.

During the period of the arduous eight-year war, the colonial army was victorious in battles here and there. They remain consistent in their fights against the British. The coalition with France resulted in a large French army and navy fleet in 1781 and with their aid, the Continental forces attacked General Charles Cornwallis and his troops in Yorktown, Virginia. This brought an end to the Revolutionary War. After the peace treaty was signed between the US and Great Britain in 1783, Washington resigned from his position as the commander-in-chief of the army and returned to Mount Vernon.

His dream now was to resume his life as a family man and gentleman farmer. The four years that followed showed Washington is his attempt to fulfill his dream. His farm had faced the consequences of the war. It was not only left neglected, but there was also no exportation of goods. But Washington worked towards repairing and restoring his land, bringing it back to a flourishing business again.

Presidency
The Articles of Confederation became a matter of much concern as it not only weakened the government, but was also dividing the states due to fights over boundaries, navigation rights, etc. These state of affairs deeply perturbed Washington and the 1786 Shay Rebellion worried him. Though he was not interested he accepted a seat in the federal convention and was thereafter elected to its presidency. His was a unanimous election. He became the first president of the United States. He took his oath of office on 30 April 1789 in New York. He was 57 years old at that time.

When Washington took office, the United States was just a small nation, which comprised 11 states and around fours million people. All through his terms he worked towards setting an example of prudence, integrity, fairness, and honesty and proved himself as an able leader. Alexander Hamilton was appointed as the Secretary of the Treasury while Thomas Jefferson was appointed as Secretary of State. During his first term, he worked on a series of measure, including reducing the nation’s debt. In matters of foreign affairs, he not only thrived towards developing cordial relations with other countries, but also looked forth to develop a state of neutrality in foreign conflicts. His two men Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton strongly disapproved the federal government’s role. While Hamilton was in favor of a strong federal government, Jefferson was in favor of stronger state’s rights. Washington was deeply disappointed at the emerging partisanship.

Life after Presidency and His Death
After serving two terms as president, Washington declined a third term that was offered to him. He retired and in his farewell speech he urged his nation to domestically maintain the highest standards and to maintain minimum involvement with foreign powers. After his presidency, Washington returned to Mount Vernon. He went back to work towards making his plantation productive again. In December of 1799, he caught a cold that later developed into a severe throat infection. Washington died on 14 December 1799 at the age of 67. It was at Mount Vernon itself that he was entombed. The site is today considered a national historic landmark.

NameGeorge Washington
Born on22end February 1732
Place of BirthWestmoreland, Virginia, British America
MotherMary Ball Washington
FatherAugustine Washington
SpouseMartha Dandridge Custis
ReligionDeism, Episcopal
Died14 December 1799 (aged 67)
Resting PlaceWashington Family Tomb, Mount Vernon, Virginia, US
Delegate to the First Continental Congress from VirginiaIn office : 5 September 1774–26 October 1774
Delegate to the Second Continental Congress from VirginiaIn office : 10 May 1775 – 15 June 1775
Commander-in-Chief of the Continental ArmyIn office : 15 June 1775 – 23 December 1783
Senior Office of the ArmyIn office : 13 July 1798 – 14 December 1799
1st President of the United StatesIn office : 30 April 1789–4 March 1797
AwardsCongressional Gold Medal
Thanks of Congress
Battles/WarsFrench and Indian War
American Revolutionary War
New Jersey and New York Campaign
Military ServiceYears of Service:
Militia: 1752–1758
Continental Army: 1775–1783
US Army: 1798–1799

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Last Updated : November 25, 2014



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