George Washington, 1732 - 1799

portrait of George Washington
Portrait begun by Gilbert Stuart (1755 - 1828), finished by Rembrandt Peale (1778 - 1860)
George Washington signature

Born: 22 February 1732, Westmoreland County, Colony of Virginia, British America
Died: 14 December 1799, Mount Vernon, Virginia

Washington was born to Augustine Washington and his second wife, Mary Ball Washington, at Pope's Creek Estate, there were two sons by Augustine's first wife. Six years later the family moved to Ferry Farm in Stafford County. Washington was educated by his father and older brother Lawrence. Lawrence married into the Fairfax family, gaining patronage for George who helped with the survey of Lord Fairfax's western lands in 1748. The next year he was named surveyor of Culpeper County. Lawrence died in 1752, leaving George with the rest of their father's estate. That year Robert Dinwiddie arrived as the new governor of the colony and named Washington to lead one of the four sections of militia, making him a major at age twenty. During the French and Indian War (Seven Years War) Washington started as Lieutenant Colonel and rose to Brigadier General. His battlefield record was mixed, although even in the failed Monongahela campaign, in which he served under General Edward Braddock, Washington's actions in organizing the retreat after the defeat earned him a hero's welcome and promotion. In 1759 he married a wealthy widow, Martha Dandridge Custis, adding significant land (and quite a few slaves) to his holdings. He adopted Martha's two children but they did not have any together. It is likely that the real love of Washington's life, including at this time, was Sally Fairfax, but the marriage appeared to have been happy. Between the two wars, Washington primarily attended to the business of growing tobacco, although he did take some political stands related to British treatment of colonial businesses. He was a Virginia delegate to the First Continental Congress, and after fighting broke out in April of 1775 he arrived at the Second Continental Congress in uniform; Congress created the Continental Army, gave Washington the rank of Major General and the title of Commander in Chief. (During the bicentennial celebration, Washington was granted the rank of General of the Armies of the United States, the highest military rank ever held in this country.) Drawing on his previous experience and assisted by Baron von Steuben and the Marquis de Lafayette, Washington prevailed against the British regulars, Hessians, and Indian allies over the course of six years, then returned to his plantation. At the Constitutional Convention at Philadelphia he was unanimously elected president of the convention. When the document was ratified, the electoral college unanimously chose Washington as president of the new nation, and again in 1792, the only president to ever win all electoral-college votes. Although Washington never joined any party, the Federalists (led by Alexander Hamilton)were organized to advance his platform in opposition to the Democratic-Republican party (led by Thomas Jefferson). At the end of his second term he returned to Mount Vernon to supervise his plantation. On 12 December 1799 he spent several hours on horseback, in snow and freezing rain, inspecting his farm, ate in his wet clothes, and woke up the next morning with laryngitis and pneumonia. The bloodletting and calomel his doctors prescribed probably were the cause of death.

Biography from Wikipedia and the White House

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