George Washington

George Washington
Gilbert Stuart Williamstown Portrait of George Washington.jpg
1st President of the United States
In office
April 30, 1789[a] – March 4, 1797
Vice PresidentJohn Adams
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byJohn Adams
7th Senior Officer of the United States Army
In office
July 13, 1798 – December 14, 1799
PresidentJohn Adams
Preceded byJames Wilkinson
Succeeded byAlexander Hamilton
Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army
In office
June 14, 1775 – December 23, 1783
Appointed byContinental Congress
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byHenry Knox as Senior Officer
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, U.S.
Political partyIndependent
Spouse(s)
Martha Dandridge (m. 1759)
[2]
ParentsAugustine Washington
Mary Ball
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)
WashingtonInsig1782.jpg General and Commander-in-Chief (Continental Army)
US-O9 insignia.svg 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 an American political leader, military general, statesman, and Founding Father who served as the first president of the United States (1789–1797). He commanded Patriot forces in the new nation's vital 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 manifold leadership during the American Revolution, he has been called the "Father of His Country".

Washington succeeded a prosperous family of slaveholding planters in colonial Virginia. He had educational opportunities and launched a favourable 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 ending 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 subordinates Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton. In the French Revolution, Washington proclaimed a policy of neutrality while sanctioning the Jay Treaty. He set enduring precedents for the office of president, including the title "President of the United States". Washington's Farewell Address was widely regarded as one of the most influential statements on republicanism.

Washington customarily owned and traded African slaves, but became troubled with the institution, and freed them 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 on February 22, 1732 in Wakefield in the Colony of Virginia, as the first child of Augustine and second wife Mary Ball Washington.[6] His family’s origins were of English gentry in Sulgrave.[7] 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.[8] 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.[9]

Washington grew up in Virginia's Tidewater region.[10] 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.[11] This is said to be the setting of an anecdote of Parson Weems,[12] 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."[13][d]

On April 12, 1743 Augustine died, leaving Washington under the care of his mother Mary.[16] Washington inherited Ferry Farm and ten slaves, while his older half-brother Lawrence inherited Epsewasson and changed its name to Mount Vernon.[17] Washington's planned study at England's Appleby Grammar School was scrapped.[18] For two to three years Washington received his formal education at the Fredericksburg school of Anglican clergyman James Mayre. [19][e]

Washington was strongly influenced by his visits to his brother Lawrence at Mount Vernon, and Belvoir, William Fairfax's slave plantation.[21] Washington desired to live the life of wealthy planter aristocracy. Fairfax observed promise in the young Washington and became his patron and surrogate father.[22] In 1748, Fairfax sent Washington with a surveying party to survey Fairfax's Shenandoah property. [23] Washington, however, abandoned the party, after a month of hardship, and returned home.[24]

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.[25] 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.[26]

In 1751, Washington made his only trip abroad with Lawrence to Barbados, hoping the climate would be beneficial to his brother's tuberculosis.[27] During the trip, Washington contracted smallpox which immunized him but left his face slightly scarred.[28] Lawrence's health continued to decline and he died on July 26, 1752.[29] Washington inherited his Mount Vernon estate in 1754 after the deaths of Lawrence's wife and daughter.[30]

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