George Washington Biography
WASHINGTON, George, first president of the United States, born in Westmoreland county, Virginia, Feb. 22, 1732; died at Mount Vernon, Dec. 14, 1799. His grandfather, Lawrence Washington, came from England to Virginia in 1657, and settled at Bridge Creek, on the Potomac River, where his father, Augustine Washington, died 1743. George was the eldest child by the second wife of the latter, Mary Ball, and the primitive condition of the country made it possible for him to acquire only a limited education in elementary subjects. He was of a studious disposition, which enabled him to attain a considerable knowledge of mathematics and surveying, and ultimately he adopted the profession of a surveyor. In 1751 he was appointed adjutant-general of one of the districts of Virginia, with the rank of major. He was sent by Lieutenant-Governor Dinwiddie, of Virginia, in 1753, on important business to the French army in the Ohio valley. When war broke out the following year, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant-colonel, and in 1755 acted as aide-de-camp to General Braddock.
Washington had all the qualities needed to make a successful commander, and at the battle of Fort Duquesne, occupying the present site of Pittsburg, he showed remarkably mastery of military tactics. Though many of the officers in that battle were slain or wounded, Washington returned safely from the disastrous expedition, but in the contest had two horses shot under him. He left the army at the close of the war and on Jan. 17, 1759, married Martha Custis, a rich widow lady of Virginia, the former wife of John Parke Custis. Shortly after he removed to Mount Vernon, that estate having been given to him by his brother, Lawrence. For sixteen years he led the life of a planter, at Mount Vernon, and on his large estate kept many slaves, who were emancipated by his will at the death of his wife. In the meantime he served as a magistrate or as a member of the legislature, and was a delegate to the first and second continental congresses. The second continental congress appointed him commander-in-chief of the army, on June 17, 1775, and he hastened to Cambridge, Mass., where he took command of the army under the historic elm on July 3. His first military reform was to reorganize the raw and ill-equipped troops, and his early successes caused the British to evacuate Boston in the early part of 1776.
The first half of the year following the adoption of the Declaration of Independence was discouraging to the patriots, but Washington's brilliant surprise of Trenton and the victory at Princeton suddenly raised the courage of the Americans. He continued as commander-in-chief of the armies throughout the war of independence, and though disaffection, defeats, and lack of supplies disheartened others, he remained firm and persevering When victory and peace finally crowned the patriotic endurance of the Americans in 1783, he retired to private life at Mount Vernon. Washington was a delegate to and president of the national convention which met in Philadelphia, Penn., in 1787, and adopted the constitution. He was the unanimous choice for president, and was inaugurated at New York, April 30, 1789, and at the end of his first term was unanimously reelected. On March 4, 1797, he retired to private life, having declined a third election to the presidency
Washington selected Jefferson as secretary of state; Knox, of war; Hamilton, of the treasury, and Randolph, attorney-general. In 1793 he issued a neutrality proclamation and made tours to the north and south, and in 1796 issued his famous farewell address to the people. When a war was threatened between France and the United States, in 1798, he was again appointed to the chief command of the army of the United States, with the rank of lieutenant-general, but died soon after at Mount Vernon. Washington had no children, but adopted two grandchildren of his wife. He was a man of remarkable self-control and dignified appearance, being six feet two inches tall, and in public matters towered above party strife. He was a Freemason, and served as master of his lodge. Congress adopted resolutions at the time of his death, their passage being moved by John Marshall, and in them occur the following words: "First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen." His home at Mount Vernon, about sixteen miles below Washington, became property of the federal government in 1858. Many excellent monuments have been reared to commemorate the notable events of his life.
The Teachers' and Pupils' Cyclopædia, Vol. V. (Kansas City: Bufton Book Co., 1909) 2063-2064.