An anonymous letter from 1 March 1792, penned by a concerned Citizen from Georgia, described the United States as “disgraced & unnecessarily impoverished.” Albeit brief, the phrase mirrors the foreboding mood of the following spring and summer. As the end of his first presidential term approached, George Washington navigated an increasingly precarious conflict at home with the Native American nations along the western frontier while simultaneously steering the country through a tempestuous international situation precipitated by the French Revolution. In addition to handling complex political circumstances and issuing the first presidential veto in United States history, he managed personal projects, the foremost being assistance with the creation of a family genealogy and supervising the planning of the new federal capital.
The Revolutionary War series opens with George Washington’s Address to the Continental Congress on 16 June in which he declares, “I do not think my self equal to the Command I (am) honored with.” Throughout the documents that cover the three months between 16 June and 15 Sept., the new commanding general grapples with uncertainty. He doubts his own abilities as well as the competence of the forces he now leads.
Documents in the first volume of the Colonial Series tell a coming-of-age story that showcase George Washington’s rapid transformation from 1748 to 1755. GW began his career working as a professional surveyor on the frontier, then the fringe of his society, but in less than five years became one of Virginia’s most distinguished soldiers. What started as quiet adolescence in the country with a comfortable occupation turned into the tale of a young man confronting the dangers of a military career while caught in the middle of a burgeoning conflict and political intrigues.
Between military service, business activities, and political obligations, George Washington traveled extensively and slept away from home many nights. In fact, he slept in so many places, and those locations so loudly publicized these visits, that the claim “George Washington Slept Here” became humorous.
TOPICS: Eighteenth-Century Life, Financial Papers, George Washington, Washington or Custis Family by Adrina Garbooshian-Huggins, Associate Editor September 3, 2021 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 […]
Very few documents survive with direct information on Mary Ball Washington. That reality has allowed latitude for analysis and conclusions. Arguably, the most important letter prompting a negative view of his mother was one George Washington wrote his friend and Virginia legislator Benjamin Harrison on March 21, 1781.
George Washington had a fascination with exotic animals. As a result of a growing number of traveling entertainers and showmen who toured 18th-century America with unusual creatures, Washington, his family, and other members of the American public gained opportunities to experience animals native to other continents, such as elephants and camels. When word circulated about an upcoming event involving the display of an exotic animal, Washington often paid for himself and members of his household to attend the viewing. For instance, as early as January 1761, Washington spent 10 shillings to see a “Lyoness.” And in December 1787, Washington paid 18 shillings to a man who brought a camel from Alexandria, Va., to Mount Vernon “for a show.” Washington’s attendance at such displays, even during periods when he was absorbed in domestic or public business, or in presiding over the burgeoning new nation, demonstrates his keen interest in such animals.
Isaac and Kitty were a married couple who were enslaved at Mount Vernon. Unfortunately, as a result of being enslaved by the Washington and Custis families, there are not many records that document the lives of Isaac and Kitty. In reviewing and visualizing George Washington’s correspondence and financial papers, we can recover some information about them—from the family and community they cultivated to the independent labor they pursued.
George Washington’s understanding of what we now often call “gun rights” would not seem to readily square with the views of today’s contending factions, each of whom commonly invoke Washington for support. He does not appear to have thought that every citizen possessed an unlimited individual right to bear arms, for criminals and traitors were to be forcibly disarmed. Washington, however, believed that all citizens faithfully engaged in state militia or federal army service ought to be granted combat-worthy firearms from the proper governmental authority. He also believed that citizens should be skilled with hunting rifles at least before commencing militia or army service.
Unlike George Washington, Francis Hopkinson seems to have craved attention, enjoying both the public eye—and ear. From his days as a student at the College of Philadelphia through an impressive career as lawyer, statesman, judge, scientist, and inventor, Hopkinson often spoke publicly and wrote extensively. What few realize about him, though, is that he was intimately involved in shaping Americans’ opinions before, during and after the Revolutionary War—through song lyrics.