George Washington


George Washington
George Washington was born on his father's estate in Westmoreland County,
Virginia, on February 22, 1732. He was the oldest son of a Virginia farmer,
Augistine Washington , by his second wife, Mary Ball, The Washington family was
descended from two brothers, John and Lawrence Washington, who emigrated from
England to Virginia in 1657. The family's rise to modest wealth in three generations was
the result of steady application to farming, land buying, and development of local
industries.
George seemed to have received most of his schooling from his father and, after
the father's death in 1743, from his older half-brother Lawrence. The boy enjoyed
mathematics, and he applied it to acquiring a knowledge of surveying, which was a skill
greatly in demand in a country where people were seeking new lands in the West. For
the Virginians of that time the West meant the upper Ohio River valley. Throughout his
life, George Washington maintained a keen interest in the development of these western
lands, and from time to time he bought properties for himself.
Under the terms of the Constitution, the formal election for the president was
done by electors, who were collectively called the Electoral College. Each elector was to
vote for the two persons he considered most qualified; the winner would be the president,
and the runner-up would be the vice president. The electors themselves were chosen
January 7, 1789, by the direct vote of the people in some states, and by the legislature in
other states. The electors met en each state on February 4 and unanimously voted for
George Washington, who thereby became president. Their second choice, far from
unanimous, was John Adams of Massachusetts. This pleased Washington because he
had feared that the vice presidency might ho to Governor George Clinton of New York,
who favored drastic amendment of the constitution. Washington, considering these
amendments dangerous, had allowed amendment word to go out that votes for Adams
would be agreeable to him because he considered Adams to be a safe man and a strong
supporter of the constitution. Also, Washington still had a lingering hope that, after
getting the government well started, he might resign from office and hasten home to
Mount Vernon. He could not reconcile this hope with his conscience unless a man he
considered safe was next in line of succession.
In the spring of 1790, Washington was struck by a severe cold and then by
influenza. For several days it was thought that George would not live. The illness and
the anxiety it caused throughout the country underlined Washington's importance to the
new nation. Abigail Adams, wife of the vice president, wrote: It appears to me that the
union of the states and consequently the permanency of the government depend under
Providence upon his life. At this early day when neither our finances are arranged nor
our government sufficiently cemented to promise duration, his death would ?have?the
most disastrous consequences. (page 322 Encyclopedia)
Washington attended the inauguration of President John Adams on March 4,
1797, and left Philadelphia two days later for Mount Vernon. There he wrote to an old
friend that he did not intend to allow the political turmoil of the country to disturb his
ease. I shall view things, he said, in the light of mild philosophy.
But he did not always agree to this resolve. He strongly opposed the Kentucky
and Virginia Resolutions of 1798, which where an attempt to limit federal powers in line
with Jefferson's beliefs. These resolutions seemed to Washington a formula for the
dissolution of the Union. In that year also, he accepted the nominal command of the
army should the undeclared hostility with France develop into open war. The last
journey of his life, in 1799, were to the army camp at Harpers Ferry, Virginia, and to
Philadelphia to consult on any matters.
Early on the morning of December 14, 1799, Washington awoke with an inflamed
throat. His condition rapidly got worse. He was further weakened by medical treatment
that involved frequent blood letting. He faced death calmly and died at 11:30 later that
night.
In the national mourning that followed, many tributes were paid to Washington.
President Adams call the most illustrious and beloved person that the country had
produced. Adams later added: His example