George Washington was born in Pope’s Creek Estate in Westmoreland County, Virginia, near present-day Colonial Beach on February 22, 1732. They belonged to the moderately prosperous middle-class landed gentry, primarily of English descent.
Augustine Washington, his father, was a tobacco planter with several properties in various locations. He also dabbled in iron manufacturing at one point. Mary Ball Washington, George’s mother, was his second wife.
George was the eldest child of six children born to his parents. While one of his siblings died when he was a child, he had four living siblings: Betty Washington, Samuel Washington, John Augustine Washington, and Charles Washington. In addition, he had two surviving half-brothers from his father’s first marriage to Jane Butler, Lawrence Washington, and Augustine Washington Jr.
George Washington spent the bulk of his childhood at ‘Ferry Farm,’ located on the northern bank of the Rappahannock River, opposite Fredericksburg, Virginia.
He began his education at home with various tutors, later attending school on an irregular basis from seven to fifteen. If George’s father had lived past the age of 48, he, like his half-brothers, might have gone to England to study. However, his father died in 1743, depriving him of the opportunity to study abroad.
His half-brother, Lawrence Washington, a man of character and knowledge, took on guardian after his father’s death. Lawrence’s wife was also well-known for her grace, grace, and culture. George absorbed a great deal while predominantly living in their Mount Vernon home, not only from them but also from his surroundings.
George Washington had finished his formal education by the age of 15. Following that, Lawrence, who had previously served in the ‘Royal Navy,’ considered securing a position for George in the same warfare force. When his mother objected, she withdrew the proposal. Instead, he started as a surveyor.
Washington’s only trip abroad was in 1751 when he accompanied Lawrence to Barbados, hoping that the climate would cure his half-tuberculosis brother’s
At 16, George Washington joined a professional survey team organized in 1748 by a friend and neighbor, George Fairfax. He moved about plotting a large tract of land along Virginia’s western border with them, gaining valuable experience.
By 1749, he had obtained a surveyor’s license from the “College of William and Mary” and was subsequently appointed as a surveyor in Culpeper County. His first task was to map a 400-acre plot of land, which he completed in two days.
He worked as a surveyor in Culpeper, Frederick, and Augusta Counties for the next two years. By 1752, he had completed approximately 200 surveys, covering over 60,000 acres of land and earning enough money to purchase a plot of land.
Small information about Washington’s childhood spawned many fables later biographers invented to fill the void. Among these are stories about Washington throwing a silver dollar across the Potomac and openly confessing to the crime after chopping down his father’s prized cherry tree.
Washington was home-schooled from the age of seven to fifteen, and he studied practical math, geography, Latin, and the English classics with the local church sexton and later a schoolmaster.
However, most of the knowledge George would use for the rest of his life came from his interactions with woodchoppers and the plantation foreman. By his early adolescence, he had mastered tobacco cultivation, stock raising, and surveying.
He was swamped surveying land in Culpeper, Frederick, and Augusta counties for two years. He became more resourceful as a result of the experience, which toughened both his mind and body. It also fascinated his interest in western land holdings, which he pursued throughout his life with speculative land purchases and the belief that colonizing the West was crucial to the nation’s future.
He considered farming one of the most honorable occupations throughout his life, and he was incredibly proud of Mount Vernon. Washington would gradually increase his holdings in the area to approximately 8,000 acres.
Planter and Politician
George Washington resigned from his commission in 1758 and moved back to Mount Vernon to become a planter and politician. He grew his landholding from 2000 acres to 8000 acres with five farms over the years. In addition, his marriage to Martha Dandridge Custis in 1759 aided him in expanding his landholding.
Initially, he only grew tobacco. However, beginning in 1766, he began growing wheat and processing his products before selling them to other parts of the colony. He eventually began fishing, horse breeding, hog production, spinning, and weaving. He later established a distillery in 1790
Meanwhile, in 1758, he was elected to Virginia’s provincial legislature, where he represented Frederick County in the House of Burgesses until 1774. Beginning in the 1760s, he became a vocal critic of Great Britain’s mercantile policies and the high taxes imposed on Americans.
When the ‘Townshend Act’ was passed in the British parliament in 1767, Washington began to play a significant role in the colonial resistance. In May 1769, he proposed a boycott of English goods until such Acts were repealed.
As a delegate from Virginia, George Washington attended the ‘First Continental Congress’ in Philadelphia in 1774. In 1775, he was appointed as a military advisor to the governor of New York. He was named Commander-in-Chief of the entire military at the ‘Second Continental Congress,’ which took place a few months later.
A planter after the war, George Washington hoped to repair the damage done by his long absence. In 1785, he hosted the ‘Mount Vernon Conference’ on his estate.
He skipped the Annapolis Convention in 1786 but agreed to preside over the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention in 1787. George Washington’s impressive leadership at the Convention convinced the delegates he was the best candidate to be the country’s first president.
Washington won the first presidential election on January 7, 1789. On April 30, 1789, he took the oath on Federal Hall balcony in New York.
During those difficult times, he was a wise and capable administrator who set many precedents. He initially refused the $25,000 annual salary but later agreed, fearing who would set a bad precedent.
He wanted to make sure the titles and ceremonies of the president’s office reflected the aspiration of a republic nation while translating the new constitution into a workable instrument. Despite the Senate’s more majestic titles, he preferred “Mr. President.”
George Washington was unanimously re-elected for a second term in 1792. On his return to Mount Vernon in 1796, he refused to serve another term. It also established the precedent of only two words for presidents.