George Washington

Copyright MMII by Inspired Idea All Rights Reserved

George Washington’s father owned several farms. George grew up learning the farming business on the family estate near the Potomac River, though he longed to be sent to England for a formal education. His father died when he was eleven, and made a formal education impossible. George was inclined toward mathematics, and became a field surveyor of undeveloped lands at 15 and learned wilderness survival skills. At 15 he also copied "110 Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation." He greatly admired his older half-brother, Lawrence, with whom he lived at Mount Vernon. Lawrence was a military adjutant for the district, and upon Lawrence’s death when George was 21, George assumed a similar appointment when he inherited the Mount Vernon estate. George’s love of the land, love of learning and decency, and a desire to be a military adjutant and gentleman farmer like Lawrence prepared him to be a great military and political leader.

Young George was a man of the land as a farmer and surveyor
As a farmer, George learned the importance of land management. As a wilderness surveyor, George learned how to survive on his own and was greatly concerned about developing the western lands.

George was home schooled
Besides the instruction of his parents, George also had tutors at home. At 13 he was copying geometry definitions and solving problems. At 15 he copied "110 Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation" in his own handwriting. Rule 108 reads, "When you speak of God, or His Attributes, let it be Seriously & Reverence, Honor & Obey your Natural Parents altho they be poor." Rule 109 reads, "Let your Recreations be Manful not Sinful."

Washington esteemed mathematics and surveying necessary for a land owner
In a letter to Jonathan Boucher in 1771, Washington wrote, "\mathematics\ at least as relates to surveying, nothing can be more essentially necessary to any man possessed of a large landed estate, the bounds of some part or other of which are always in controversy."

Washington’s Prayer Book
Washington wrote a 24 page personal prayer book in 1752. The following is one of his prayers: "Bless our rulers in church and state. Bless O Lord the whole race of mankind, and let the world be filled with the knowledge of Thee and Thy Son Jesus Christ. Pity the sick, the poor, the weak, the needy, the widows and fatherless, and all that morn or are broken in heart, and be merciful to them according to their several necessities. Bless my friends and grant me grace to forgive my enemies as heartily as I desire forgiveness of Thee my heavenly Father. I beseech Thee to defend me this night from all evil, and do more for me than I can think or ask, for Jesus Christ sake, in whose most holy Name & Words, I continue to pray, Our Father, &c."

His adopted grand-daughter did not doubt his Christianity
His adopted grand-daughter, Nelly Custis-Lewis, who lived with George and Martha for twenty years and called them her beloved parents, wrote the following about George Washington: "The General, as was then the custom, stood during the devotional parts of the service. On communion Sundays, he left the church with me, after the blessing, and returned home, and we sent the carriage back for my grandmother. It was his custom to retire to his library at nine or ten o'clock where he remained an hour before he went to his chamber. He always rose before the sun and remained in his library until called to breakfast. I never witnessed his private devotions. I never inquired about them. I should have thought it the greatest heresy to doubt his firm belief in Christianity. His life, his writings, prove that he was a Christian. He was not one of those who act or pray, "that they may be seen of men" (Matthew 6:5). He communed with his God in secret (Matthew 6:6)."

God protected Washington in battle
As adjutant, George was dispatched in October, 1753 by Gov. Robert Dinwiddie to warn a French commander against further encroachment on British territory. Washington's diary account of the dangers encountered may have helped gain his promotion to lieutenant colonel. George Washington later fought alongside British General Edward Braddock. On July 9, 1755, the British were ambushed by the French. Every officer on horseback, except Washington, was shot down. Nine days after the Battle at the Monongahela, Washington wrote from Fort Cumberland to his brother, John A. Washington: " the All-Powerful Dispensations of Providence, I have been protected beyond all human probability or expectation; for I had four bullets through my coat, and two horses shot under me, yet escaped unhurt, although death was leveling my companions on every side of me!"

The Indians revered him
Fifteen years after the Battle at Monongahela, Washington and a close friend were walking through the battle area when they met an old Indian chief. His interpreter relayed the chief’s message: "I am a chief and ruler over my tribes. ...I have traveled a long and weary path that I might see the young warrior of the great battle. ...I called to my young men and said, mark yon tall and daring warrior? ...Our rifles were leveled, rifles which, but for you, knew not how to miss - `twas all in vain, a power mightier far than we, shielded you. Seeing you were under the special guardianship of the Great Spirit, we immediately ceased to fire at you. ...The Great Spirit protects that man, and guides his destinies - he will become the chief of nations, and a people yet unborn will hail him as the founder of a mighty empire. I am come to pay homage to the man who is the particular favorite of Heaven, and who can never die in battle."

George married Martha
In January 1759 he married Martha Custis, a widow with two children. George and Martha had no children of their own, but they later adopted and raised two of their grandchildren. In 1774 as the situation with England grew worse, Martha Washington wrote to a relative: "Yes, I foresee consequences - dark days, domestic happiness suspended, social enjoyments abandoned, and eternal separation on earth possible, but my mind is made up, my heart is in the cause. George is right; he is always right. God has promised to protect the righteous, and I will trust Him."

George Washington was a vestryman at Pohick Church from 1762 to 1784. A plaque at Pohick Church contains his Prayer for America. "Almighty God; We make our earnest prayer that Thou wilt keep the United States in Thy Holy protection; and Thou wilt incline the hearts of the Citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to Government; and entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another and for their fellow Citizens of the United States at large, and particularly for their brethren who have served in the Field. And finally that Thou wilt most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that Charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind which were the Characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed Religion, and without a humble imitation of whose example in these things we can never hope to be a happy nation. Grant our supplication, we beseech Thee, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

Washington served in Continental Congress
George Washington was a delegate to the First and Second Continental Congress. In the First Continental Congress, he referred to the petitions to George III as 'whining', saying, "Something must be done to avert the stroke and maintain the liberty which we have derived from out ancestors." By the Second Continental Congress, he was convinced British policy "exhibited an unexampled testimony of the most despotic system of tyranny that was ever practiced in a free government."

Washington served as commander of the Continental army (1775-1783)
On July 4, 1775 Gen. Washington gave this order: "The General most earnestly requires, and expects due observance of those articles of war, established by the Government of the army, which forbid profane cursing, swearing and drunkenness; And in like manner requires and expects, of all Officers, and Soldiers, not engaged on actual duty, a punctual attendance of Divine Services, to implore the blessings of Heaven upon the means used for our safety and defense." In July 1776, he told his troops, "The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army. Our cruel and unrelenting enemy leaves us only the choice of brave resistance, or the most abject submission. We have, therefore, to resolve to conquer or die." In May 1777, Gen. Washington wrote: "Let vice and immorality of every kind be discouraged as much as possible in your brigade... Gaming of every kind is expressly forbidden, as being the foundation of evil..."

Henry Melchior Muhlenberg was pastor of the Lutheran church near Valley Forge. In his book, he noted the following concerning General Washington: "I heard a fine example today, namely, that His Excellency General Washington rode around among his army yesterday and admonished each and every one to fear God, to put away the wickedness that has set in and become so general, and to practice the Christian virtues. From all appearances, this gentleman does not belong to the so-called world of society, for he respects God's Word, believes in the atonement through Christ, and bears himself in humility and gentleness. Therefore, the Lord God has also singularly, yea, marvelously, preserved him from harm in the midst of countless perils, ambuscades, fatigues, etc., and has hitherto graciously held him in His hand as a chosen vessel."

General Washington prayed for the country
On May 1, 1777, news came that France was joining the war on the side of America. The General announced the news to his troops and then prayed: "And now, Almighty Father, if it is Thy holy will that we shall obtain a place and name among the nations of the earth, grant that we may be enabled to show our gratitude for Thy goodness by our endeavors to fear and obey Thee. Bless us with Thy wisdom in our counsels, success in battle, and let all our victories be tempered with humility. Endow, also, our enemies with enlightened minds, that they become sensible of their injustice, and willing to restore our liberty and peace. Grant the petition of Thy servant, for the sake of Him whom Thou hast called Thy beloved Son; nevertheless, not my will, but Thine be done."

Washington resigned as commander in chief (1783)
Washington addressed Congress when he resigned his commission: "While I repeat my obligations to the Army in general, I should do injustice to my own feelings not to acknowledge in this place the peculiar Services and distinguished merits of the Gentlemen who have been attached to my person during the War. ...Permit me Sir, to recommend in particular those, who have continued in Service to the present moment, as worthy of the favorable notice and patronage of Congress. I consider it an indispensable duty to close this last solemn act of my Official life, by commending the Interests of our dearest Country to the protection of Almighty God, and those who have the superintendence of them, to his holy keeping. Having now finished the work assigned me, I retire from the great theatre of Action; and bidding an Affectionate farewell to this August body under whose orders I have so long acted, I here offer my Commission, and take my leave of all the employments of public life."

Washington presided over Constitutional Convention
He later presided over the Constitutional Convention in 1787 and signed the Constitution. Though he only spoke once during the meetings, his looks of approval or disapproval could often stabilize a disruptive situation.

Beneath his 1792 painting of George Washington, Col. John Trumbull wrote a dedication to "The Father Of Our Country...on the great occasion of your presidential election."

Washington resigned the presidency after two terms (1796)
Washington's farewell address: "If in the opinion of the people the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates, but let there be no change by usurpation; for though this in one instance may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed. The precedent must always greatly overbalance in permanent evil any partial or transient benefit which the use can at any time yield. Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. ...Observe good faith and justice toward all nations. Cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and morality enjoin this conduct. ...The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is, in extending our commercial relations to have with them as little political connection as possible."

Cincinnatus was a brilliant general whom the Roman Senate called upon to fight their foes in 458 B.C. in order to save the Republic. Though he could have easily made himself emperor after his victorious campaign, he laid down his sword and took up his plow on his four-acre farm. Like Cincinnatus, Washington relinquished formidable power and returned to private life on his farm. He became the first president of the Society of Cincinnati for Revolutionary War veterans. Washington established the precedence of periods of public service instead of making politics a lifetime career.

George and Martha Washington are buried at their beloved Mount Vernon
Two years after leaving the office of President, Washington caught a cold in his throat and died. Though there are two spaces provided for their bodies beneath the floor of the Rotunda of the Capitol, George Washington insisted that he and his wife be buried at Mount Vernon. He did not want a national mausoleum. Above Washington's tomb is engraved, "I am the Resurrection and the Life; sayeth the Lord. He that believeth in Me, though he were dead yet shall he live. And whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die." (John 11:25-26)


Term Definition
address to direct words or speech to an assembly
adjutant an officer whose business is to assist the Major by receiving and communicating order. He places guards, receives and distributes ammunition, assigns places of rendezvous, etc.
Cincinnatus a brilliant general whom the Roman Senate called upon to fight their foes in 458 B.C. in order to save the Republic; he could have made himself emperor, but he laid down his sword and took up his plow
dictator someone invested with absolute authority who ‘dictates’ rules and laws to others
mausoleum stately sepulchral monument
preside to direct, control, and govern over a vast nation or a small meeting of citizens
republic a state in which the exercise of the sovereign power is lodged in representatives elected by the people
surveyor one that views and examines for the purpose of ascertaining the quantity or quality of any thing, like land
usurp to take possession by force or without right
vestryman elected church member who oversees meetings and finances in room attached to church (called a vestry)