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George Washington was a leader of the Continental Army in the American Revolution, and was the first to become U.S. president.
Founding Father George Washington served as commander-in-chief of the Colonial Armies during the American Revolution and was the first President of the United States.
Learn about a young George Washington and how his early years shaped the man he later became.
After leaving the military, George Washington set out to become a farmer with the land at Mount Vernon he received from his brother, Lawrence.
When George Washington was 11 years old, his father passed away and he immediately took on adult responsibilities.
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George Washington was born on February 22, 1732, in Westmoreland County, Virginia. Washington served as a general and commander-in-chief of the colonial armies during the American Revolution, and later became the first president of the United States, serving from 1789 to 1797. He died on December 14, 1799, in Mount Vernon, Virginia.
“Observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all.”
“When we assumed the soldier, we did not lay aside the citizen.”
“Be courteous to all, but intimate with few.”
"[T]he preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the republican model of government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people."
“We should never despair, our situation before has been unpromising and has changed for the better, so I trust, it will again. If new difficulties arise, we must only put forth new exertions and proportion our efforts to the exigency of the times.”
“There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation.”
“[M]y movements to the chair of government will be accompanied by feelings not unlike those of a culprit who is going to the place of his execution.”
“True friendship is a plant of slow growth, and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity before it is entitled to the appellation.”
“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.”
“I heard the bullets whistle, and, believe me, there is something charming in the sound.”
“Discipline is the soul of an army. It makes small numbers formidable; procures success to the weak, and esteem to all.”
“The basis of our political Systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their Constitutions of Government. But the Constitution which at any time exists, 'till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole People, is sacredly obligatory upon all.”
"I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is the best policy."
"The bosom of America is open to receive not only the opulent and respectable stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all nations and religions."
George Washington could trace his family's presence in North America to his great-grandfather, John Washington, who migrated from England to Virginia. The family held some distinction in England and was granted land by Henry VIII. Much of the family’s wealth was lost during the Puritan revolution and in 1657 George’s grandfather, Lawrence Washington, migrated to Virginia. Little information is available about the family in North America until George’s father, Augustine, who was born in 1694.
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. The family lived on Pope's Creek in Westmoreland County, Virginia. They were moderately prosperous members of Virginia's "middling class."
Augustine moved the family up the Potomac River to another Washington family home, Little Hunting Creek Plantation, (later renamed Mount Vernon) in 1735 and then moved again in 1738 to Ferry Farm on the Rappahannock River, opposite Fredericksburg, Virginia, where George Washington spent much of his youth.
Little is known about George Washington's childhood, which fostered many of the fables later biographers manufactured to fill in the gap. Among these are the stories that Washington threw a silver dollar across the Potomac and after chopping down his father's prize cherry tree, he openly confessed to the crime. It is known that from age seven to fifteen, George was home schooled and studied with the local church sexton and later a schoolmaster in practical math, geography, Latin and the English classics. But much of the knowledge he would use the rest of his life was through his acquaintance with backwoodsmen and the plantation foreman. By his early teens, he had mastered growing tobacco, stock raising and surveying.
George Washington’s father died when he was 11 and he became the ward of his half-brother, Lawrence, who gave him a good upbringing. Lawrence had inherited the family's Little Hunting Creek Plantation and married Anne Fairfax, the daughter of Colonel William Fairfax, patriarch of the well to do Fairfax family. Under her tutorage, George was schooled in the finer aspects of colonial culture.
In 1748, when he was 16, George traveled with a surveying party plotting land in Virginia’s western territory. The following year, aided by Lord Fairfax, Washington received an appointment as official surveyor of Culpeper County.
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