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George Washington and Charity

by Adrina Garbooshian-Huggins, Associate Editor

George Washington was a lifelong supporter of charitable causes, as evidenced by the hundreds of expenditures recorded in his ledgers for "Charity."1 Even at the outset of the Revolutionary War, when a number of serious matters weighed heavily on Washington's mind, he maintained an awareness of his duty to help the poor. He wrote his distant cousin and Mount Vernon farm manager Lund Washington in November 1775: "Let the Hospitality of the House, with respect to the Poor, be kept up; Let no one go hungry away . . . and I have no objection to your giving my money in Charity to the amount of Forty or Fifty pounds a year, when you think it well bestowd. What I mean by having no objection, is, that it is my desire that it should be done." At the same time, Washington recommended that Lund observe frugal practices and consider the importance of savings, especially because he had refused to accept a salary for his service as commander-in-chief.2

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Major funding for the Washington Papers is provided by the Packard Humanities Institute, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, as well as by the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association, the University of Virginia and the Florence Gould Foundation.