George Washington


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George WashingtonWashington, GEORGE, "Father of His Country"; born on Pope's Creek, Westmoreland Co., Virginia, February 22, 1732; was descended from an old and titled English family; and was the eldest child of his father's second wife, Mary Ball. Soon after Washington's birth, the family moved to an estate in Stafford county. The plain farmhouse in which they lived overlooked the Rappahannock River. There Washington's father died, when the former was about ten years of age, leaving a plantation to each of his sons. The task of the education and guidance of the future leader through the dangers of youthhood devolved upon his mother. So judicious was her training that Washington, through life, remembered her affectionate care with profound gratitude. He received a common English education, and upon that foundation his naturally thoughtful and right-conditioned mind, with the cardinal virtues of truth, integrity, and justice, was built the structure of his greatness. He was always beloved by his young companions, and was invariably chosen the leader in their military plays.

George Washington the SurveyorHe had a desire, at the age of fourteen years, to become a seaman, but was dissuaded from embarking by his mother. When he was seventeen years of age he had become one of the most accurate land surveyors in Virginia. He was appointed public surveyor at the age of eighteen. In pursuit of his profession, he learned much of woodcraft and the topography of the country; also of the habits of the Indians in the camp and on the warpath. These were useful lessons, of great value to him later in life. At the age of nineteen, young Washington was appointed an adjutant-general of the militia of a district, with the rank of major, but soon afterwards resigned to accompany his invalid half-brother, Lawrence, to Barbadoes, where George had the small-pox. His brother soon afterwards died, and by his will George became heir to the fine estate of Mount Vernon.

In 1753 he was sent on a delicate mission, by the governor of Virginia, to the commander of the French forces making encroachments on the English domain, and performed the duties with great credit, for which he was thanked by the Virginia legislature. So highly were his character and services valued, that when, in 1755, General Braddock came to make war on the French, Washington was chosen his principal aide-de-camp. After the defeat of Braddock (see BRADDOCK, EDWARD), he directed the retreat of the vanquished troops with great skill. At the age of twenty-seven he married the young widow Custis (see WASHINGTON, MARTHA), and they took up their abode at Mount Vernon, where he pursued the business of a farmer until 1774, when he was chosen to a seat in the Virginia legislature. He was also chosen a delegate to the first Continental Congress, and was a delegate the following year, when, in June, he was appointed commander-in-chief of the Continental armies. For eight years Washington directed the feeble armies of the revolted colonies in their struggle for independence. At the return of peace he surrendered his commission into the hands of Congress, who gave it to him, and retired to private life at Mount Vernon, at the close of 1783.

During all the national perplexities after the return of peace, incident to financial embarrassments and an imperfect system of government, Washington was still regarded as the public leader; and when the convention that formed the national Constitution assembly at Philadelphia, in 1787, he was there, a delegate from Virginia, and was chosen to preside over that body. When, under that Constitution, a President of the republic was to be chosen, all eyes were turned towards him as the fittest man for the place, and he was elected by the unanimous voice of the people. He presided over the affairs of the new nation eight years with great wisdom and fidelity, and with great skill and sagacity assisted in laying the permanent foundations of the republic. His administration embraced the most critical and eventful portion of our history before the Civil War. A new government had to be organized, without any model to follow, and to guide the ship of state through dangerous seas required a loftiness of character in the pilot and commander seldom found, but Washington was equal to the requirements of his position, and he retired from public life without the least stain of merited reproach upon his intentions or his judgment. In the enjoyment of domestic happiness at Mount Vernon, for about three years, he was regarded more and more as the great and good man. Suddenly, on December 14, 1799, the nation was called upon to mourn his death, after an illness of about twenty-four hours. his last words were, " It is well."

George Washington on Death Bed

George Washington on his Death Bed

The mother of Washington, Mary Ball, was the daughter of Colonel W. Ball, to whom his father was married in March, 1730. George was their first-born of six children. With these she was left a widow when her eldest child was little more than ten years of age. In the latter years of her life she lived in Fredericksburg, in a modest house, on the northwest corner of Charles and Lewis streets. There she died, and was buried a short distance from Fredericksburg, near a ledge of rocks, to which she often resorted for meditation, and which she had selected as her burial-place years before her death. Over the grave stands an unfinished monument of white marble.

SEE ALSO: General Henry "Light Horse Harry" Lee's Eulogy for George Washington



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