It’s said that if one can connect one president to your family then the others will be connected also. The ancestral background of presidents of the United States has been relatively consistent throughout American history. With the exception of John F. Kennedy, Martin Van Buren, and perhaps Dwight D. Eisenhower, every president has ancestors from Great Britain.
I’m not going to go into much detail about who George Washington was since just about everyone should know who our first United States President was. His background is extremely lengthy. I will touch on a few things though taken from Wikipedia.
George Washington was an American political leader, military general, statesman, and Founding Father of the United States, who served as the first president of the United States from 1789 to 1797. Washington led the Patriot forces to victory in the American Revolutionary War and presided at the Constitutional Convention of 1787, which established the Constitution of the United States and a federal government for the United States. Washington has been called the “Father of the Nation” for his manifold leadership in the formative days of the country.
Washington’s first public office was serving as the official Surveyor of Culpeper County, Virginia from 1749 to 1750. Subsequently, he received his initial military training (as well as a command with the Virginia Regiment) during the French and Indian War. He was later elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses and was named a delegate to the Continental Congress. Here he was appointed Commanding General of the Continental Army. With this title, he commanded American forces (allied with France) in the defeat and surrender of the British at the Siege of Yorktown during the American Revolutionary War. He resigned his commission after the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1783.
Washington played an indispensable role in adopting and ratifying the Constitution of the United States. He was then twice elected president by the Electoral College. He implemented a strong, well-financed national government while remaining impartial in a fierce rivalry between cabinet members Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton. During the French Revolution, he proclaimed a policy of neutrality while sanctioning the Jay Treaty. He set enduring precedents for the office of president, including the title “Mr. President”, and his Farewell Address is widely regarded as a pre-eminent statement on republicanism.
Washington owned and was responsible for several hundred slaves, and, to preserve national unity, he supported measures passed by Congress to protect slavery. Starting in 1778, he became troubled with the institution of slavery and freed William Lee, one of his slaves in a 1799 will. He endeavored to assimilate Native Americans into the Anglo-American culture but combated indigenous resistance during instances of violent conflict. He was a member of the Anglican Church and the Freemasons, and he urged broad religious freedom in his roles as general and president. Upon his death, he was eulogized as “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen”. He has been memorialized by monuments, art, geographical locations, including the national capital, stamps, and currency, and many scholars and polls rank him among the greatest U.S. presidents. On March 13, 1978, Washington was militarily ranked General of the Armies, an honor that has only been awarded twice in the history of the United States.
The Washington family was a wealthy Virginia planter family that had made its fortune through land speculation and the cultivation of tobacco. Washington’s great-grandfather John Washington immigrated in 1656 from Sulgrave, Northamptonshire, England, to the English colony of Virginia where he accumulated 5,000 acres (2,000 ha) of land, including Little Hunting Creek on the Potomac River. George Washington was born on February 22, 1732, at Popes Creek in Westmoreland County, Virginia, and was the first of six children of Augustine and Mary Ball Washington. His father was a justice of the peace and a prominent public figure who had four additional children from his first marriage to Jane Butler. The family moved to Little Hunting Creek in 1735. Three years later in 1738, they moved to Ferry Farm near Fredericksburg, Virginia on the Rappahannock River. When Augustine died in 1743, Washington inherited Ferry Farm and ten slaves; his older half-brother Lawrence inherited Little Hunting Creek and renamed it, Mount Vernon.
Washington did not have the formal education his elder brothers received at Appleby Grammar School in England, but he did learn mathematics, trigonometry, and land surveying. He was a talented draftsman and map-maker. By early adulthood he was writing with “considerable force” and “precision”; however, his writing displayed little wit or humor. In pursuit of admiration, status, and power, he tended to attribute his shortcomings and failures to someone else’s ineffectuality.
Washington often visited Mount Vernon and Belvoir, the plantation that belonged to Lawrence’s father-in-law William Fairfax. Fairfax became Washington’s patron and surrogate father, and Washington spent a month in 1748 with a team surveying Fairfax’s Shenandoah Valley property. He received a surveyor’s license the following year from the College of William & Mary. Even though Washington had not served the customary apprenticeship, Fairfax appointed him surveyor of Culpeper County, Virginia, and he appeared in Culpeper County to take his oath of office July 20, 1749. He subsequently familiarized himself with the frontier region, and though he resigned from the job in 1750, he continued to do surveys west of the Blue Ridge Mountains. By 1752 he had bought almost 1,500 acres (600 ha) in the Valley and owned 2,315 acres (937 ha).
In 1751, Washington made his only trip abroad when he accompanied Lawrence to Barbados, hoping the climate would cure his brother’s tuberculosis. Washington contracted smallpox during that trip, which immunized him but left his face slightly scarred. Lawrence died in 1752, and Washington leased Mount Vernon from his widow; he inherited it outright after her death in 1761.
Marriage and Family Life
On January 6, 1759, Washington, at age 26, married Martha Dandridge Custis, the 27-year-old widow of wealthy plantation owner Daniel Parke Custis. The marriage took place at Martha’s estate; she was intelligent, gracious, and experienced in managing a planter’s estate, and the couple created a happy marriage. They raised John Parke Custis (Jacky) and Martha Parke (Patsy) Custis, children from her previous marriage, and later Jacky’s children Eleanor Parke Custis (Nelly) and George Washington Parke Custis (Washy). Washington’s 1751 bout with smallpox is thought to have rendered him sterile, though it is equally likely that “Martha may have sustained injury during the birth of Patsy, her final child, making additional births impossible.” The couple lamented not having any children together. They moved to Mount Vernon, near Alexandria, where he took up life as a planter of tobacco and wheat and emerged as a political figure.
The marriage gave Washington control over Martha’s one-third dower interest in the 18,000-acre (7,300 ha) Custis estate, and he managed the remaining two-thirds for Martha’s children; the estate also included 84 slaves. He became one of Virginia’s wealthiest men, which increased his social standing.
Washington’s step-daughter Patsy Custis suffered from epileptic attacks from age 12, and she died in his arms in 1773. The following day, he wrote to Burwell Bassett: “It is easier to conceive, than to describe, the distress of this Family”. He canceled all business activities and remained with Martha every night for three months.
Though in reviewing the incidents of my Administration I am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors. Whatever they may be, I fervently beseech the Almighty to avert or mitigate the evils to which they may tend. I shall also carry with me the hope that my country will never cease to view them with indulgence, and that, after forty-five years of my life dedicated to its service with an upright zeal, the faults of incompetent abilities will be consigned to oblivion, as myself must soon be to the mansions of rest.
On December 12, 1799, Washington inspected his farms on horseback. The weather was snowing with sleet. He returned home late for dinner. Washington kept his wet clothes on, not wanting to keep his guests waiting. He had a sore throat the next day. The weather was freezing and snowy. Washington marked trees for cutting. That evening, he complained of chest congestion but was still cheerful. On Saturday, he awoke to an inflamed throat and difficulty breathing, so he ordered estate overseer George Rawlins to remove nearly a pint of his blood, bloodletting is a common practice of the time. His family summoned Doctors James Craik, Gustavus Richard Brown, and Elisha C. Dick. (Dr. William Thornton arrived some hours after Washington died.)
Dr. Brown thought Washington had quinsy; Dr. Dick thought the condition was a more serious “violent inflammation of the throat”. They continued the process of bloodletting to approximately five pints, and Washington’s condition deteriorated further. Dr. Dick proposed a tracheotomy, but the others were not familiar with that procedure and therefore disapproved. Washington instructed Brown and Dick to leave the room, while he assured Craik, “Doctor, I die hard, but I am not afraid to go.”
Washington’s death came more swiftly than expected. On his deathbed, he instructed his private secretary Tobias Lear to wait three days before his burial, out of fear of being entombed alive. According to Lear, he died peacefully between 10 and 11 p.m. on December 14, 1799, with Martha seated at the foot of his bed. His last words were “‘Tis well”, from his conversation with Lear about his burial. He was 67.
The diagnosis of Washington’s illness and the immediate cause of his death have been subjects of debate since the day he died. The published account of Drs. Craik and Brown stated that his symptoms had been consistent with cynanche trachealis (tracheal inflammation), a term of that period used to describe severe inflammation of the upper windpipe, including quinsy. Accusations have persisted since Washington’s death concerning medical malpractice, with some believing he had been bled to death. Various modern medical authors have speculated that he died from a severe case of epiglottitis complicated by the given treatments, most notably the massive blood loss which almost certainly caused hypovolemic shock.
Washington was buried in the old Washington family vault at Mount Vernon, situated on a grassy slope overspread with willow, juniper, cypress, and chestnut trees. It contained the remains of his brother Lawrence and other family members, but the decrepit brick vault needed repair, prompting Washington to leave instructions in his will for the construction of a new vault. Washington’s estate at the time of his death was worth an estimated $780,000 in 1799, approximately equivalent to $14.3 million in 2010. Washington’s peak net worth was $587.0 million, including his 300 slaves. Washington held title to more than 65,000 acres of land in 37 different locations.
In 1830, a disgruntled ex-employee of the estate attempted to steal what he thought was Washington’s skull, prompting the construction of a more secure vault. The next year, the new vault was constructed at Mount Vernon to receive the remains of George and Martha and other relatives. In 1832, a joint Congressional committee debated moving his body from Mount Vernon to a crypt in the Capitol. The crypt had been built by architect Charles Bulfinch in the 1820s during the reconstruction of the burned-out capital, after the Burning of Washington by the British during the War of 1812. Southern opposition was intense, antagonized by an ever-growing rift between North and South; many were concerned that Washington’s remains could end up on “a shore foreign to his native soil” if the country became divided, and Washington’s remains stayed in Mount Vernon.
On October 7, 1837, Washington’s remains were placed, still in the original lead coffin, within a marble sarcophagus designed by William Strickland and constructed by John Struthers earlier that year. The sarcophagus was sealed and encased with planks, and an outer vault was constructed around it. The outer vault has the sarcophagi of both George and Martha Washington; the inner vault has the remains of other Washington family members and relatives.
President Washington’s line can be found through the Bradley’s lineage.