Many Colonial Virginians considered unfair British economic practices to be an infringement of their natural rights. The economic grievances of the Virginia planter class eventually became a key motivator for rebellion. As Thomas Jefferson complained in his Summary View of the Rights of British America, Virginians were at the mercy of “the British merchant for whatever he will please to allow us.” Jefferson argued that Virginia tobacco “planters were a species of property annexed to certain mercantile houses in London.”
While the financial records detail Washington’s purchases, and thus his belongings, it is difficult to gain deeper meaning from the records in their raw form. We could look at each document line-by-line—discovering that Washington bought twenty bushels of corn one day in 1790 and then sold four pounds of beef the next—but we do not gain any broad historical insight from such information. In order to see meaningful patterns and trends, we must look at the data as a whole.
In the years before he became commander in chief of the Continental Army in the Revolution, Washington kept diaries of, in his words, “Where & how my time is Spent.” Many of these journals have survived, and they have been printed in volumes I, II, and III of the Diaries.1 But during the war, Washington kept a diary only during two periods.
We recently produced a series of short, educational videos called “George’s Farm Animals,” which directly feature GW’s documents. Even though the videos focused in turn on his cattle, sheep, hogs, and mules, the documents concerning these animals also show his daily life at Mount Vernon, the importance of agriculture in the United States, his network of foreign connections, and even a glimpse of his elusive personal side. We hoped that educators would find them useful in classrooms, and that kids would enjoy learning about George and his monumental achievements from the perspective of his daily home life.
Over the centuries, corn has evolved into an important agricultural commodity in the United States. From food production to making ethanol, corn plays a featured role in multiple aspects of today’s world. For Washington, however, corn, specifically Indian corn, became emblematic of the wasteful practices of early American farmers.
TOPICS: Animals and Agriculture, Food, Guest Contributor, Health and Medicine, Mount Vernon, Slavery by Mary Thompson, Mount Vernon Research Historian April 2, 2015 There are only two brief mentions in George Washington’s papers indicating that bees were raised by him at Mount Vernon. On July 28, 1787, 300 nails were […]
By Caitlin Conley March 10, 2015 Caitlin is a Research Assistant for the Bibliography Project and is part of the Papers of George Washington social media team. We’re excited to bring you the fourth episode of “George’s Farm Animals!” This video features the remarkable story of Royal Gift, a prized Spanish […]
By Caitlin Conley February 17, 2015 Caitlin is a Research Assistant for the Bibliography Project and is part of the Papers of George Washington social media team. Welcome to Part III of our series “George’s Farm Animals!” This video features GW’s hogs. Most of the references to his hogs in the […]
By Caitlin Conley February 9, 2015 Caitlin is a Research Assistant for the Bibliography Project and is part of the Papers of George Washington social media team. Welcome to Part II of our video series “George’s Farm Animals.” This time we explore how GW cared for his sheep, which were […]
By Caitlin Conley February 2, 2015 Caitlin is a Research Assistant for the Bibliography Project and is part of the Papers of George Washington social media team. Have you ever been curious about what George was up to when he wasn’t on the public stage? We all probably tend to […]