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Politics & War

Politics & War

George Washington

George Washington
PART – 1



• George Washington was born February 11, 1731, the first child of Augustine Washington and second wife Mary Ball Washington, in Westmoreland County, Virginia.

• Augustine Washington was an ambitious man who acquired land and slaves, built mills, and grew tobacco. For a time, he had an interest in opening iron mines. He married his first wife, Jane Butler and they had three children.

• Jane died in 1729 and Augustine married Mary Ball in 1731. George was the eldest of Augustine and Mary’s six children, all of which survived into adulthood.

• Washington’s father died of a sudden illness in April 1743 when George was eleven, and he was kept under the care of Mary, his stern thirty-five-year-old mother.


• Without his father, Washington relied on other men for guidance, including his half-brother Lawrence. His father’s death deprived Washington of the formal education his older brothers received at England’s Appleby Grammar School.

• He was an avid reader and purchased books on military affairs, agriculture, and history, as well as the popular novels of his time. In 1751, Washington made his only trip abroad, to Barbados with Lawrence, in the hope that the climate would be beneficial to the brother’s tuberculosis.

• Lawrence’s health continued to decline and he returned to Mount Vernon, where he died on July 26, 1752, and George suffered the loss of this surrogate father. Washington eventually acquired Lawrence’s Mount Vernon estate after the deaths of Lawrence’s wife Ann and their daughter.


• The death of Washington’s brother Lawrence left vacant his military position as Adjutant General. Washington decided to give up surveying, begin a soldier’s life, and pursue the position.

• In 1753, at age 21 he therefore became military ambassador for the British crown to the French officials and Indians as far north as Erie, Pennsylvania.

• On October 31, 1753, Dinwiddie sent Washington to Fort LeBoeuf, at what is now Waterford, Pennsylvania, to warn the French to remove themselves from land claimed by Britain.

• The French politely refused and Washington made a hasty ride back to Williamsburg, Virginia’s colonial capitol. Dinwiddie sent Washington back with troops and they set up a post at Great Meadows. Washington’s small force attacked a French post at Fort Duquesne killing the commander.The French and Indian War had begun


• He competing stakes led to the French and Indian War (1754–62) and contributed to the start of the global Seven Years’ War (1756–63).

• In July 1754, the French responded by attacking Fort Necessity in a ten-hour battle which ended in Washington’s only surrender and the return of his force to Virginia. Upon his return to Virginia, Washington refused to accept a demotion to the rank of captain, and resigned his commission.

• Washington was given the honorary rank of colonel and joined British General Edward Braddock’s army in Virginia in 1755. This was the largest British expedition to the colonies, intended to expel the French from the Ohio Country, and its first objective was the capture of Fort Duquesne

• In the Battle of the Monongahela, the French and their Indian allies ambushed Braddock’s divided forces. Washington escaped injury with four bullet holes in his cloak and two horses shot out from underThough he fought bravely, he could do little to turn back the rout and led the broken army back to safety.


• In August 1755, Washington was made commander of all Virginia troops at age 23. He was sent to the frontier to patrol and protect nearly 400 miles of border with some 700 ill-disciplined colonial troops and a Virginia colonial legislature unwilling to support him.

• It was a frustrating assignment. His health failed in the closing months of 1757 and he was sent home with dysentery.

• Washington retired from his Virginia regiment in December 1758. His experience during the war was generally frustrating, with decisions made excessively slow, poor support from the colonial legislature, and poorly trained recruits. Washington applied for a commission with the British Army but was turned down. In December 1758, he resigned his commission and returned to Mount Vernon disillusioned.


• On January 6, 1759, Washington married wealthy widow Martha Dandridge Custis, aged 28. George and Martha made a compatible marriage; she was intelligent, gracious, and experienced in managing a planter’s estate.

• They had no children together; his bout with


• Washington lived an aristocratic lifestyle, and his favorite activities included fox hunting, dances and parties, the theater, races, and cockfights. He also was known to play cards, backgammon, and billiards.

• Like most Virginia planters, he imported luxuries and other goods from England and paid for them by exporting his tobacco crop. By 1764, however, these luxuries and a poor tobacco market left him ₤1,800 in debt.

• He gradually pulled himself out of debt in the mid-1760s by diversifying his business interests, paying more attention to his finances, and reducing imported luxuries.

• He changed Mount Vernon’s primary cash crop from tobacco to wheat, which could be processed and then sold in various forms in the colonies, and he further diversified operations to include flour milling, fishing, horse breeding, hog production, spinning, and weaving. In the 1790s, he erected a distillery for whiskey production which yielded more than 1,000 gallons a month

PART – 2

• Washington became a political figure and soon emerged as a leader in the social elite in Virginia. From 1768 to 1775, he invited some 2,000 guests to his Mount Vernon estate, mostly those whom he considered “people of rank”.

• His first-hand involvement began in 1767 when he took political stands against acts of the British Parliament such as the Stamp Act, the first direct tax on the colonies, enacted with no colonial representation.

• He assumed a leading role in the widespread colonial protests against the Townshend Acts enacted in 1767. In May 1769, he introduced a proposal drafted by his friend George Mason, calling for Virginia to boycott English goods until the Acts were repealed. Parliament repealed the Townshend Acts in 1770.

• In August, he attended the First Virginia Convention where he was selected as a delegate to the First Continental Congress.


• The colonies formally went to war with Great Britain after initial armed conflicts in the Battles of Lexington and Concord near Boston in April 1775. On June 14, Congress created the Continental Army, and Samuel Adams.

•John Adams of Massachusetts nominated Washington to be its supreme commander; he was unanimously elected to that position the next day.Washington appeared at the Second Continental Congress in a military uniform, marking his preparation for war. Congress appointed him commander over 13 generals.

• He trained his officer staff during his initial months of command, and ordered them to familiarize themselves with their recruits so as to understand what military duties best suited them. He impressed upon them the importance of being prepared and of respecting civilians

• Washington only had 3,500 men for the 1776 campaign. By mid-January, his army was half-strength at 9,600 men; the colonial militia that fought in the French and Indian War was summoned


• Washington was the best choice for a number of reasons: he had the prestige, military experience and charisma for the job and he had been advising Congress for months. Another factor was political.

• George Washington was not necessarily qualified to wage war on the world’s most powerful nation. Washington’s training and experience were primarily in frontier warfare involving small numbers of soldiers.

• He wasn’t trained in the open-field style of battle practiced by the commanding British generals. He had no practical experience maneuvering large formations of infantry, commanding cavalry or artillery, or maintaining the flow of supplies for thousands of men in the field.

• But he was courageous and determined and smart enough to keep one step ahead of the enemy. Washington and his small army did taste victory early in March 1776 by placing artillery above Boston, on Dorchester Heights, forcing the British to withdraw


• Washington then moved his troops into New York City.In August 1776, the British army launched an attack and quickly took New York City in the largest battle of the war.

• Washington’s army was routed and suffered the surrender of 2,800 men. He ordered the remains of his army to retreat across the Delaware River into Pennsylvania. Confident the war would be over in a few months, General Howe wintered his troops at Trenton and Princeton, leaving Washington free to attack at the time and place of his choosing.

• 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.


• General Howe’s strategy was to capture colonial cities and stop the rebellion at key economic and political centers. In the summer of 1777, he mounted an offensive against Philadelphia. George Washington moved in his army to defend the city and was defeated at the Battle of Brandywine. Philadelphia fell two weeks later.

• 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 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


• The darkest time for 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.

• 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.


• The alliance with France had brought a large French army and a navy fleet. Washington and his French counterparts decided to let Clinton be and attack British General Charles Cornwallis at Yorktown, Virginia. Facing 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.

• A near mutiny was avoided when Washington convinced Congress to grant a five-year bonus for soldiers in March 1783. By November of that year, the British had evacuated New York City and other cities and the war was essentially over. The Americans had won their independence.

• Washington formally bade his troops farewell and on December 23, 1783, he resigned his commission as commander-in-chief of the army and returned to Mount Vernon.


• In 1787, Washington was again called to the duty of his country. Since independence, the young republic had been struggling under the Articles of Confederation, a structure of government that centered power with the states. But the states were not unified.

• They fought among themselves over boundaries and navigation rights and refused to contribute to paying off the nation’s war debt. In some instances, state legislatures imposed tyrannical tax policies on their own citizens.

• In 1786, Congress approved a convention to be held in Philadelphia to amend the Articles of Confederation.At the Constitution Convention, Washington was unanimously chosen as president. Among others, such as James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, Washington had come to the conclusion that it wasn’t amendments that were needed, but a new constitution that would give the national government more authority.


• Still hoping to retire to his beloved Mount Vernon, Washington was once again called upon to serve this country. He took the oath of office at Federal Hall in New York City, the capital of the United States at the time.

• He preferred the title “Mr. President,” instead of more imposing names that were suggested. At first he declined the $25,000 salary Congress offered the office of the presidency, for he was already wealthy and wanted to protect his image as a selfless public servant. However, Congress persuaded him to accept the compensation to avoid giving the impression that only wealthy men could serve as president.

• George Washington proved to be an able administrator. He surrounded himself with some of the most capable people in the country, appointing Alexander Hamilton as Secretary of the Treasury and Thomas Jefferson as Secretary of State. He delegated authority wisely and consulted regularly with his cabinet listening to their advice before making a decision.


• Desiring to return to Mount Vernon and his farming, and feeling the decline of his physical powers with age, Washington refused to yield to the pressures to serve a third term, even though he would probably not have faced any opposition.

• In March 1797, he turned over the government to John Adams and returned to Mount Vernon, determined to live his last years as a simple gentleman farmer. His last official act was to pardon the participants in the Whiskey Rebellion.

• Upon returning to Mount Vernon in the spring of 1797, Washington felt a reflective sense of relief and accomplishment. He had left the government in capable hands, at peace, its debts well-managed, and set on a course of prosperity. He devoted much of his time to tending the farm’s operations and management.


• During his long absence, the plantation had not been productive, and there was much work to be done. On a cold December day in 1799, Washington spent much of it inspecting the farm on horseback in a driving snowstorm.

• When he returned home, he hastily ate his supper in his wet clothes and then went to bed. The next morning, on December 13, he awoke with a severe sore throat and became increasingly hoarse.

• He retired early, but awoke around 3 a.m. and told Martha that 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.