George Washington – The Father of Our Country


George Washington

Few men have virtue to withstand the highest bidder.
~ George Washington

George Washington, February 22 [February 11, Old Style calendar], 1732, Westmoreland County, Virginia [U.S.]—died December 14, 1799, Mount Vernon, Virginia, U.S

George Washington and our Founding Fathers sacrificed everything to lead our young country out of tyranny to freedom. Washington did it for posterity out of honor and courage in great adversity.

What would he think of a generation now that might not understand the sacrifices that brought us here and the importance of considering those who will follow? What would he think of a Saul Alinsky who condoned lying and manipulation to achieve the ends he wanted?

Will we be the generation that goes to the highest bidder or will we be the generation that leads a new path, abandoning the unimportant for what really matters – our right to be free individuals with earned opportunities to be the best we can be. This is who George Washington was.

It should be the highest ambition of every American to extend his views beyond himself, and to bear in mind that his conduct will not only affect himself, his country, and his immediate posterity; but that its influence may be co-extensive with the world, and stamp political happiness or misery on ages yet unborn. ~ George Washington

What will you do for your fellow man? Are you willing to forego short term pleasures to fight for freedom because we are losing our freedoms.

George Washington had a prestigious family history in England. Things changed with the Puritan Revolution when his family lost most of their wealth. The family moved to Virginia, becoming moderately prosperous.

Much of George Washington’s early life is lost in time. It is known that he was home-schooled but learned more from the local backwoodsmen and plantation foreman. After his father died at age 11, he became a ward of his brother Lawrence who married Anne Fairfax, daughter of Colonel William Fairfax who made certain the George was given an education in the refined pursuits of colonial life such as surveying.

His brother and niece died suddenly, months apart, leaving him the heir to a prominent estate at age 20.

George Washington worked his way up through the ranks beginning as adjutant with a rank of major in the Virginia militia. It was the French and Indian Wars which resulted in him being captured once – it was a tough beginning for him. He was a quick learner and became commander of the Virginia troops at the age of 23 because of his remarkable successes in battle. He became a full Colonel but resigned his commission because to the slights by the British.

In battle, he was cool, determined, poised with boundless energy.

Martha Custis Washington

George married a very wealthy widow Martha Dandridge Custis and loving her two children as his own. He was hearbroken when his beloved charges, Jack and Patsy, died. He adopted Jack’s two children as his own. He went back to his love – farming – and became a member of the House of Burgess.

George Washington did not believe in slavery, detested the system but recognized it was the law and owned slaves. His care of slaves was exemplary. He carefully clothed and fed them, engaged a doctor for them by the year, generally refused to sell them—“I am principled against this kind of traffic in the human species”—and administered correction mildly. They showed so much attachment that few ran away. Hard for us to put ourselves in that time.

The family had a prominent social life and the finest material things. He was an obedient member of the House of Burgesses.

…He was present when Patrick Henry introduced his resolutions against the Stamp Act in May 1765 and shortly thereafter gave token of his adherence to the cause of the colonial Whigs against the Tory ministries of England. In 1768 he told George Mason at Mount Vernon that he would take his musket on his shoulder whenever his country called him.

The next spring, on April 4, 1769, he sent Mason the Philadelphia nonimportation resolutions with a letter declaring that it was necessary to resist the strokes of “our lordly masters” in England; that, courteous remonstrances to Parliament having failed, he wholly endorsed the resort to commercial warfare; and that as a last resort no man should scruple to use arms in defense of liberty.

When, the following May, the royal governor dissolved the House of Burgesses, he shared in the gathering at the Raleigh, N.C., tavern that drew up nonimportation resolutions, and he went further than most of his neighbours in adhering to them. At that time and later he believed with most Americans that peace need not be broken…

Then the Boston Tea Party began. Washington was present at Raleigh Tavern when they called for a Continental Congress and signed all the resolutions, saying –

“I will raise one thousand men, subsist them at my own expense, and march myself at their head for the relief of Boston.”

When the Congress met in Philadelphia on Sept. 5, 1774, he was in his seat in full uniform, and his participation in its councils marks the beginning of his national career.

His letters of the period show that, while still utterly opposed to the idea of independence, he was determined never to submit “to the loss of those valuable rights and privileges, which are essential to the happiness of every free State, and without which life, liberty, and property are rendered totally insecure.” If the ministry pushed matters to an extremity, he wrote, “more blood will be spilled on this occasion than ever before in American history.”

Issues such as no settling beyond the Alleghenies and the Stamp Act bothered him but did not move him to seek independence. He became a delegate to the First Continental Congress in March, 1775, not seeking independence from Britain.

The Battle of Lexington and Concord of 1775 escalated the rising tensions and Washington joined the Second Continental Congress. He went dressed in full uniform making it clear that he was ready for war. In June 15, Washington was appointed Major General and Commander-in-Chief of the colonial forces against Great Britain.

Suddenly a colonial fighter was taking on the greatest military presence in the world.

He lost the battle for New York City to Sir William Howe who came with the largest British army ever launched. Washington retreated across the Delaware to Pennsylvania in despair.

An over-confident Howe wintered his troops in Trenton and Princeton. Washington was now free to attack when and where he wanted.

…On Christmas night, 1776, Washington and his men crossed the Delaware River and attacked unsuspecting Hessian mercenaries at Trenton, forcing their surrender. A few days later, evading a force that had been sent to destroy his army, Washington attacked the British again, this time at Princeton, dealing them a humiliating loss…

Howe believed in attacking the major cities as a way of winning a quick defeat. He was outwitted.

…In the late summer of 1777, the British army sent a major force, under the command of John Burgoyne, south from Quebec to Saratoga, New York, to split off the rebellion in New England. But the strategy backfired as Burgoyne became trapped by the American armies led by Horatio Gates and Benedict Arnold at the Battle of Saratoga. Without support from Howe, who couldn’t reach him in time, he was forced to surrender his entire 6,200 man army. The victory was a major turning point in the war as it encouraged France to openly ally itself with the American cause for independence…

While Howe continued with his militaristic assault on cities, he lost the war in spirit. Washington understood that keeping the belief in independence alive was more important. Howe realized his tactics weren’t working because when he’d take over a city, the Revolutionaries simply moved.

Enormous suffering was to follow once he retreated but Washington’s indomitable will lead men to bear up under the most challenging conditions of any war. They suffered an extremely viral winter in tiny cabins and in tattered clothes. Washington kept them together.

…The darkest time for George Washington and the Continental Army was during the winter of 1777 at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. The 11,000 man force went into winter quarters and over the next six months suffered thousands of deaths, mostly from disease. But the army emerged from the winter still intact and in relatively good order. Realizing their strategy of capturing Colonial cities had failed, the British command replaced General Howe with Sir Henry Clinton. The British army evacuated Philadelphia to return to New York City. Washington and his men delivered several quick blows to the moving army, attacking the British flank near Monmouth Courthouse. Though a tactical standoff, the encounter proved Washington’s army capable of open field battle…

Washington was a brilliant General. He kept the British confined to New York City and did not attempt to take back the city. When Washington formed the French alliance, General Charles Cornwallis at Yorktown, “…Virginia could not stand up to the combined French and Colonial armies and the French fleet of 29 warships at his back, Cornwallis held out as long as he could, but on October 19, 1781, he surrendered his forces…”

Washington abandoned the French after the Revolution to form an alliance with the British through the Jay Treaty, which infuriated Thomas Jefferson.

…the treaty proved beneficial to the United States by removing British forts along the western frontier, establishing a clear boundary between Canada and the United States, and most importantly, delaying a war with Britain and providing over a decade of prosperous trade and development the fledgling country so desperately needed…

The new government was very partisan. Alexander Hamilton – the Federalist – supported a strong national government and Thomas Jefferson – the Democrat-Republican – believed in small government. Washington hoped for free and open debate without feeling bound to party loyalties. He could not contain the partisanship however.

The debate over the proper role of government began and the two-party system evolved.

Wshington’s presidency was void of all trappings of the monarchy though he was criticized for enjoying his wealth. George Washington was asked to be king and he refused. He refused a third term as President and returned to Mount Vernon in 1797.

On a cold December day in 1799, Washington spent much of it inspecting the farm on horseback in a driving snow storm. When he returned home, he hastily ate his supper in his wet clothes and then went to bed. The next morning, December 13, he awoke with a severe sore throat and became increasingly hoarse. He retired early, but awoke around 3:00 am and told Martha he felt sick. The illness progressed until he died late in the evening of December 14, 1799. The news of his death spread throughout the country plunging the nation into a deep mourning. Many towns and cities held mock funerals and presented hundreds of eulogies to honor their fallen hero. When the news of this death reached Europe, the British fleet paid tribute to his memory and Napoleon ordered ten days of mourning.

The man who sacrificed everything for his country only had two years of retirement at his beloved Mount Vernon.

…He set many precedents for the national government and the presidency: the two-term limit in office, only broken once by Franklin Roosevelt, and then later ensconced in the Constitution’s 22nd Amendment. He crystallized the power of the presidency as a part of the government’s three branches, able to exercise authority when necessary, but also accept the balance of power inherent in the system. He was not only considered a military and revolutionary hero, but a man of great personal integrity, with a deep sense of duty, honor, and patriotism. For over 200 years, George Washington has been acclaimed as indispensible to the success of the Revolution and the birth of the nation. But his most important legacy may be that he insisted he was dispensable, asserting that the cause of liberty was larger than any individual…

I cannot conceive a rank more honorable, than that which flows from the uncorrupted choice of a brave and free people, the purest source and original fountain of all power. ~ George Washington

Read more: Biography