On February 22, 1732, George Washington was born in Westmoreland County, Virginia, the first of six children to Augustine and Mary Ball Washington. (Augustine had three more children from his first marriage.) An initially loyal British subject, Washington eventually led the Continental Army during the American Revolution and became the first president of the new nation. He is often referred to as the Father of the United States.
Washington has risen to notoriety on its own merit. His first job at 17 was as a surveyor in the Shenandoah Valley. In 1752 he joined the British Army and served as a lieutenant in the French and Indian War. When the war ended, Washington left the military and returned home to Virginia to manage Mount Vernon, the plantation he had recently inherited upon the death of his older brother. He married a wealthy widow, Martha Dandridge Custis, in 1759. Although the couple have no children, Washington adopted Martha’s son and daughter from their previous marriage. While in Virginia, Washington served in the colonial home of the Burgesses and, like many of his compatriots, grew increasingly frustrated with the British government. He soon joined his co-revolutionaries in the Continental Congress.
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In 1775, the Continental Congress unanimously chose Washington to command the new Continental Army. In addition to advocating civilian control over the military, Washington possessed this intangible quality of a born leader and had acquired a reputation for coolness under fire and disciplinary rigor during the French and Indian campaign. In this war, he dodged bullets, had horses pulled under him and was even taken prisoner by the French. Part of its success in the Revolutionary War was due to its judicious use of what was then seen as the unmanly, but effective, guerrilla tactics, in which hit-and-run stealth attacks thwarted the forces. British armies used to close the war battle line. Although Washington fought almost as many losing battles as it won, its successes in Trenton, Princeton, and Yorktown proved essential to the Continental Army and the emerging nation. In 1789, in part because of his wartime leadership skills, the Continental Congress elected Washington as the first US president.
George Washington’s legacy has gone through a long process of unraveling myth and fact. The famous cherry tree incident never happened, nor did Washington have wooden teeth, although he only had one tooth when he became president and was wearing a series of dentures. metal and cow or hippopotamus bone. In the portraits of Washington, the pain caused by his prosthetics is evident in his facial expression. Known to be emotionally reserved and aloof, Washington was concerned with personal conduct, character, and self-discipline, but was known to bend the rules when necessary, particularly in times of war. While Washington was undoubtedly ambitious, it pursued its goals with humility and with quiet confidence in its leadership capabilities.
An extraordinary figure in American history and unusually tall at 6 ′ 3, Washington was also an ordinary man. He enjoyed cricket and fox hunting, moved gracefully around a ballroom, was a Freemason and perhaps a Deist, and was a keen observer of the darker side of human nature. His favorite dishes were pineapples, Brazil nuts (hence the missing teeth by cracking the shells) and Saturday dinners with salt cod. He had an ironic sense of humor and, like his wife Martha, tried to resist the vanities of public life. Washington could also explode in anger when vexed by war or political battles. Almost true to a fault, he could also be ruthless and cold when passed. When Republican Thomas Jefferson admitted to slandering the president in an anonymous newspaper article for his support for federalist Alexander Hamilton’s policies, Washington cut Jefferson from his life. On at least one occasion, Washington’s stubbornness prompted John Adams to call him Old Muttonhead.
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An unenthusiastic political leader, Washington has nonetheless recognized its unique and symbolic role in the cohesion of a nascent nation. He worked hard to reconcile competing factions within his administration and was keenly aware of setting unwritten rules of conduct for future presidents. He debated with advisers on what kind of image a president should project. He preferred that of dignity and humility and stumbled when encouraged to act outside his character or monarchy. After two terms, old, tired and disillusioned with vicious partisan politics, he resigned. His granddaughter remembered him as a prisoner of his own fame. Abigail Adams described Washington as having a dignity that forbids familiarity mixed with an easy affability that creates love and reverence.
After leaving office, Washington returned to Mount Vernon, indulged in his passion for rural life and started a successful whiskey distillery. A member of the Virginia planter class, he felt increasingly uncomfortable with the hypocrisy of owning slaves, but he publicly promoted a gradual abolition of slavery. In his will, he demanded that his enslaved laborers be freed upon Martha’s death. Although he and Martha had a good relationship, the great love of his life was Sally Fairfax, the wife of his friend George. Letting go of his characteristic self-control, Washington wrote to Sally towards the end of her life, confessing that his times with her had been the happiest of his life.
On December 14, 1799, Washington died of severe respiratory illness. He humbly identified himself in his will as George Washington, of Mount Vernon, a citizen of the United States.
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