George Washington

George Washington
Gilbert Stuart Williamstown Portrait of George Washington.jpg
Portrait by Gilbert Stuart, March 1797
1st President of the United States
In office
April 30, 1789[a] – March 4, 1797
Vice PresidentJohn Adams
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byJohn Adams
Senior Officer of the United States Army
In office
July 13, 1798 – December 14, 1799
Appointed byJohn Adams
Preceded byJames Wilkinson
Succeeded byAlexander Hamilton
In office
June 14, 1775 – December 23, 1783
Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army
Appointed byContinental Congress
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byHenry Knox
Delegate to the Continental Congress
from Virginia
In office
May 10, 1775 – June 15, 1775
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byThomas Jefferson
ConstituencySecond Continental Congress
In office
September 5, 1774 – October 26, 1774
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byOffice abolished
ConstituencyFirst Continental Congress
Personal details
Born(1732-02-22)February 22, 1732
Popes Creek, Colony of Virginia, British America
DiedDecember 14, 1799(1799-12-14) (aged 67)
Mount Vernon, Virginia
Cause of deathEpiglottitis and hypovolemic shock
Resting placeWashington Family Tomb, Mount Vernon, Virginia, U.S.
Political partyNone
Spouse(s)
Martha Dandridge (m. 1759)
[2]
ParentsAugustine Washington
Mary Ball Washington
AwardsCongressional Gold Medal
Thanks of Congress[3]
SignatureCursive signature in ink
Military service
Allegiance Kingdom of Great Britain
 United States
Service/branchKingdom of Great Britain Colonial Militia
 United States Continental Army
 United States Army
Years of service1752–58 (British Militia)
1775–83 (Continental Army)
1798–99 (U.S. Army)
RankColonel (British Army)
General and Commander-in-Chief (Continental Army)
Lieutenant General (United States Army)
General of the Armies (promoted posthumously: 1976, by an Act of Congress)
CommandsVirginia Colony's regiment
Continental Army
United States Army
Battles/wars

George Washington (February 22, 1732[b][c] – December 14, 1799) was one of the Founding Fathers and the first President of the United States (1789–1797). He commanded Patriot forces in the new nation's American Revolutionary War and led them to victory over the British. Washington also presided at the Constitutional Convention of 1787, which established the new federal government. For his leadership he has been called the "Father of His Country".

Washington was born to a successful family of planters and slaveholders in colonial Virginia. He had educational opportunities and at age seventeen launched a successful career as a land surveyor. He then became a leader of the Virginia militia in the French and Indian War. During the Revolutionary War he was a delegate to the Continental Congress, was unanimously appointed commander-in-chief of the Army, and led an allied campaign to victory at the Siege of Yorktown which ended the conflict. Once victory was in hand in 1783, he resigned as commander-in-chief.

Washington was unanimously elected President by the Electoral College in the first two national elections. He promoted and oversaw implementation of a strong, well-financed national government, but remained impartial in the fierce rivalry between Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton. In the French Revolution, Washington proclaimed a policy of neutrality while sanctioning the controversial Jay Treaty. As President he set enduring precedents for the office, including the title "The President of the United States". His Farewell Address warned against political partisanship and involvement in foreign wars.

Washington owned slaves from the age of 11; he became increasingly troubled by slavery and freed his slaves in his will. He was a member of the Anglican Church and the Freemasons, and urged tolerance for all religions in his roles as general and President. Upon his death, he was eulogized as "first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen".[5] Washington has been memorialized by monuments, art, places, stamps, and currency, and he has been ranked by scholars among the four greatest American presidents.

Early years (1732–1752)

George Washington was born February 22, 1732 in Wakefield in the Colony of Virginia, as the first child of Augustine and second wife Mary Ball Washington.[6] The family was descended primarily from the gentry of Sulgrave, England. His great-grandfather John Washington emigrated to Virginia in 1656, where he became a tobacco planter and accumulated land and slaves, as did his son Lawrence and his grandson Augustine.[7] His father, a moderately wealthy planter, justice of the peace, and county sheriff, had 10 children, 4 by his first marriage to Jane Butler, and 6 by Mary, including Washington.[8]

Washington grew up in Virginia's Tidewater region.[9] When he was three, the family moved from his birthplace at the Popes Creek Estate to the plantation Epsewasson on the Potomac River. Three years later, they relocated to Ferry Farm near Fredericksburg.[10] This is said to be the setting of an anecdote of Parson Weems,[11] who averred that Augustine once asked George whether he had damaged a cherry tree, and the boy replied, "I cannot tell a lie; I cut it with my little hatchet."[12][d]

On April 12, 1743 Augustine died, leaving Washington under the strict care of his mother Mary with reduced finances.[15] He inherited Ferry Farm and ten slaves, while his older half-brother Lawrence inherited Epsewasson and changed its name to Mount Vernon.[16] His mother could not afford to send Washington to England's Appleby Grammar School,[17] and Washington received his primary education from a variety of tutors; he attended the Fredericksburg school of Anglican clergyman James Mayre.[18] Washington was taught mathematics, trigonometry, and surveying, by school master Henry Williams, and was talented in draftsmanship and map-making.[19] By early adulthood Washington was writing with "considerable force" and "precision."[20]

His brother Lawrence in 1743 had married Anne Fairfax, the daughter of Virginia statesman William Fairfax, who became Washington's surrogate father.[21] Washington moved to Mount Vernon with Lawrence and Anne,[22] and was friends with William Fairfax's son George,[23] whose wife Sally had been an early romantic interest.[24]

Washington and George accompanied surveyor James Genn in 1748 to survey Shenandoah lands of Lord Fairfax, and Washington gained valuable experience during the month-long trip.[25] In 1749, Washington received a surveyor's license from the College of William & Mary, and was appointed surveyor of Culpeper, Virginia, with Fairfax's influence.[26] He made numerous surveys of the Shenandoah Valley, primarily for Fairfax, and became accustomed to the wilderness. In October 1750, Washington had bought almost 1,500 acres (600 ha) in the Shenandoah Valley, when he resigned his Culpeper commission. By 1752 he accumulated 2,315 acres (937 ha) in the Valley.[27]

In 1751, Washington made his only trip abroad with Lawrence to Barbados, hoping the climate would be beneficial to his brother's tuberculosis.[28] During the trip, Washington contracted smallpox which immunized him but left his face slightly scarred.[29] Lawrence's health continued to decline and he died on July 26, 1752.[30] Washington inherited his Mount Vernon estate in 1754 after the deaths of Lawrence's wife and daughter.[31]

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