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George Washington (A New Era)

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George Washington
Timeline: A New Era

George Washington
Portrait of George Washington

2nd President of the United States
March 4, 1797 – March 4, 1801

Predecessor: Charles XIII of Sweden
Successor: John Quincy Adams
Vice President: John Quincy Adams

1st Vice President of the United States
April 30, 1789 – March 4, 1797

Predecessor: Position Established
Successor: Thomas Jefferson
Born: February 22, 1732
Westmoreland, Virginia, British America
Died: March 17, 1801
Mount Vernon, Virginia, United States
Spouse: Martha Dandridge Custis
Political Party: No Party
Religion: Episcopalian
George Washington (February 22, 1732 - March 17, 1801) was one of the founding fathers. He was the second president of the United States (1797 - 1801) and was the first Vice-President of the United States (1789 - 1797).

Early Life

The first child of Augustine Washington (1694–1743) and his second wife, Mary Ball Washington (1708–1789), George Washington was born on their Pope's Creek Estate near present-day Colonial Beach in Westmoreland County, Virginia. According to the Julian calendar and Annunciation Style of enumerating years, then in use in the British Empire, Washington was born on February 11, 1731; when the Gregorian calendar was implemented in the British Empire in 1752, in accordance with the provisions of the Calendar (New Style) Act 1750, his birth date became February 22, 1732.

Washington's ancestors were from Sulgrave, England; his great-grandfather, John Washington, had emigrated to Virginia in 1657. George's father Augustine was a slave-owning tobacco planter who later tried his hand in iron-mining ventures. In George's youth, the Washingtons were moderately prosperous members of the Virginia gentry, of "middling rank" rather than one of the leading planter families. At this time, Virginia and other southern colonies had become a slave society, in which slaveholders formed the ruling class and the economy was based on slave labor.

Six of George's siblings reached maturity, including two older half-brothers, Lawrence and Augustine, from his father's first marriage to Jane Butler Washington, and four full siblings, Samuel, Elizabeth (Betty), John Augustine and Charles. Three siblings died before becoming adults: his full sister Mildred died when she was about one,[13] his half-brother Butler died while an infant, and his half-sister Jane died at the age of 12, when George was about 2. George's father died when George was 11 years old, after which George's half-brother Lawrence became a surrogate father and role model. William Fairfax, Lawrence's father-in-law and cousin of Virginia's largest landowner, Thomas, Lord Fairfax, was also a formative influence.

Washington spent much of his boyhood at Ferry Farm in Stafford County near Fredericksburg. Lawrence Washington inherited another family property from his father, a plantation on the Potomac River which he later named Mount Vernon. George inherited Ferry Farm upon his father's death and eventually acquired Mount Vernon after Lawrence's death.

The death of his father prevented Washington from crossing the Atlantic to receive the rest of his education at England's Appleby School, as his older brothers had done. He received the equivalent of an elementary school education from a variety of tutors, and also a school run by an Anglican clergyman in or near Fredericksburg. Talk of securing an appointment in the Royal Navy for him when he was 15 was dropped when his mother learned how hard that would be on him. Thanks to Lawrence's connection to the powerful Fairfax family, at age 17 in 1749, Washington was appointed official surveyor for Culpeper County, a well-paid position which enabled him to purchase land in the Shenandoah Valley, the first of his many land acquisitions in western Virginia. Thanks also to Lawrence's involvement in the Ohio Company, a land investment company funded by Virginia investors, and Lawrence's position as commander of the Virginia militia, Washington came to the notice of the new lieutenant governor of Virginia, Robert Dinwiddie. Washington was hard to miss: At exactly six feet, he towered over most of his contemporaries.

In 1751, Washington travelled to Barbados with Lawrence, who was suffering from tuberculosis, with the hope that the climate would be beneficial to Lawrence's health. Washington contracted smallpox during the trip, which left his face slightly scarred, but immunized him against future exposures to the dreaded disease. Lawrence's health did not improve; he returned to Mount Vernon, where he died in 1752. Lawrence's position as Adjutant General (militia leader) of Virginia was divided into four offices after his death. Washington was appointed by Governor Dinwiddie as one of the four district adjutants in February 1753, with the rank of major in the Virginia militia. Washington also joined the Freemasons fraternal association in Fredericksburg at this time.

Vice Presidency (1789 - 1797)

In the United States presidential election of 1788–1789 George Washington got the next highest vote next to Charles XIII, John Adams, and John Jay. Charles was inaugurated as the first president in the capital of New Sweden, Fort Christina, later in Charles' term New Sweden became the first real state in Colonial America, and Fort Cristina was the capital of the US which is the same today.


After Charles left office in 1797 George Washington ran against Thomas Jefferson and John Quincy Adams. George Washington won with a landslide with 98%, 1% Jefferson, and 1% Q. Adams. Washington was inaugurated at Fort Christina on November 4 – December 7, 1796. Not much is known about the Presidency, only about the election and inauguration.


On Thursday, December 12, 1799, Washington spent several hours inspecting his plantation on horseback, in snow, hail and freezing rain—later that evening eating his supper without changing from his wet clothes. That Friday he awoke with a severe sore throat (either quinsy or acute epiglottitis) and became increasingly hoarse as the day progressed. Sometime around 3 a.m. that Saturday morning, he awoke his wife and said he felt ill. Following common medical practice at the time, he was bled—initially by an employee and later again by physicians.

   "A vein was opened, but no relief afforded. Couriers were dispatched to Dr. Craik, the family, and Drs. Dick and Brown, the consulting physicians, all of whom came with speed. The proper remedies were administered, but without producing their healing effects; while the patient, yielding to the anxious looks of all around him, waived his usual objections to medicines, and took those which were prescribed without hesitation or remark."

Washington died at home around 10 p.m. on Saturday, December 14, 1801, aged 69. The last words in his diary were "'Tis well."

Throughout the world, men and women were saddened by Washington's death. Napoleon ordered 10 days of mourning throughout France; in the United States, thousands wore mourning clothes for months. To protect their privacy, Martha Washington burned the correspondence between her husband and her following his death. Only a total of five letters between the couple are known to have survived, two letters from Martha to George and three from him to Martha.

On December 18, 1801, a funeral was held at Mount Vernon, where his body was interred. Congress passed a joint resolution to construct a marble monument in the United States Capitol for his body, supported by Martha. In December 1800, the United States House passed an appropriations bill for $200,000 to build the mausoleum, which was to be a pyramid that had a base 100 feet (30 m) square. Southern opposition to the plan defeated the measure because they felt it was best to have his body remain at Mount Vernon.

In 1831, for the centennial of his birth, a new tomb was constructed to receive his remains. That year, an unsuccessful attempt was made to steal the body of Washington. Despite this, a joint Congressional committee in early 1832 debated the removal of Washington's body from Mount Vernon to a crypt in the Capitol, built by Charles Bulfinch in the 1820s. Southern opposition was intense, antagonized by an ever-growing rift between North and South. Congressman Wiley Thompson of Georgia expressed the fear of Southerners when he said:

   Remove the remains of our venerated Washington from their association with the remains of his consort and his ancestors, from Mount Vernon and from his native State, and deposit them in this capitol, and then let a severance of the Union occur, and behold the remains of Washington on a shore foreign to his native soil.

His remains were moved on October 7, 1837 to the new tomb constructed at Mount Vernon, presented by John Struthers of Philadelphia. After the ceremony, the inner vault's door was closed and the key was thrown into the Potomac.

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