The Accomplishments of George Washington
Every third Monday in February, we celebrate the birthdays of two of the greatest men to ever preside over America: George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Maybe it was coincidence – and maybe it wasn’t – that they were both born in February.
George Washington’s birthday is actually February 22, ten days after Lincoln’s birthday. Let’s go back to February 22, 1721 – almost 290 years ago. Augustine and Mary Ball Washington are welcoming baby George into the world. Did they realize he’d become the hero of thousands? General Washington? The Father of the United States of America?
While he isn’t the only American hero we’ve got, it goes without saying that he was one of a kind. Why was George Washington important? And how did him being the man he was, influence what he did for the nation?
From the time he was a child, George Washington’s early life was influenced by the period culture and experiences that were preparing him for the greater responsibilities he was destined to receive.
The culture of the period was very strict and included many rules and guidelines as to when one could speak, how one should behave, and even groom themselves. George learned these rules, which only contributed to his discipline and good manners.
While he didn’t actually chop down his father’s cherry tree, he was being shaped to become the honest, upright man that he is famous for. George’s adolescence was a period in which tasks such as growing tobacco and collecting grapes began to forge his character. Heavy work gave him both humility and a sense of responsibility.
Tragically, at only eleven years old, he had to cope with the death of his father. This event also brought an end to his formal education.
When his stepbrother Lawrence became his guardian and father figure, George’s interest in the military flourished. Like any little brother, he looked up to his older brother and his desires to live the military life were fed by each anecdote that Lawrence spoke. His mother, of course, silenced this and urged her son to reject all consideration of military life.
As just a young teen, he traveled to the Bermudas with Lawrence, as a sort of cure for his tuberculosis. However, he caught small pox – but survived. George was a fighter.
In his early teens, he began work as a surveyor, where he learned to dominate his body and mind through long and exhausting work days in the open wilderness of the Eastern US. The lack of comforts and constant exposure to the hazards of wildlife hardened his skin and helped prepare him for his future tasks. The teenage George was turning into a man.
Young Adulthood and Early Career
At the ripe old age of 20, he became the head of his family upon the death of Lawrence, which left George the plantation at Mount Vernon. And, coincidentally, at that very moment in history, tensions were high between the English and the French, who were looking for an expanded empire.
Washington’s muted military spirit was revived when he enlisted in the military, perhaps inspired by the death of his brother, and very soon, as a now wealthy and influential man in the state of Virginia, Washington was made district commander. His military work in this period began to cement his fame and his leadership skills were magnified. He was a natural.
Soon, the real test of his skills would be upon George Washington. The American Revolution was upon the colonists. Considered one of the most important episodes in American history and even world history, it influenced many people and the world as we know it today. But what exactly what did Washington do in the war?
1756 saw the beginning of the French and Indian War, a theatre of the broader Seven Year’s War which, in principle, was the English settlers fighting to halt the French influence and expansion in America. Washington served in this – the onset of many changes in his country – first as lieutenant colonel of the regiment of Virginia, then as the supreme head of the armed forces of the region. His military work in such positions showed his courage and his ability to make appropriate and speedy decisions.
However, when a defeat at the Battle of Monongahela took place, his spirit was dampened, even though he had played a key role in organizing a retreat amongst chaos and saving the lives of the remaining soldiers. He was now known as a hero – at the age of 23! He was given charge of the entire Virginia militia.
His youth did not detract from his popularity or admiration, which gave strength to the young George Washington. His experience on the battlefield and his heroic deeds gave him prestige and influence in the political arena.
The Seven Years’ War ended with the Treaty of 1763, and then came the taxes that so infuriated the colonists. Later, the historic protest known as the Boston Tea Party, ended up opening the eyes to Washington and his commitment towards the defense of American freedoms was awakened.
The idea of independence did not resonate strongly in his mind, but for Washington it was clear that he would not give up the struggle for rights and privileges that were essential to the happiness and interest of the colonists.
Washington’s brilliant organizational skills and discipline allowed him to create the Massachusetts army. This same army he would lead to occupy Boston and expel the English from New England in 1776.
Washington had won the first battle, but there were still several years of struggle and risks for the revolutionary troops. His ability to instill confidence in the soldiers, his untiring soul and his great common sense were his best weapons. He knew how to keep the flame of patriotism alive and warm in the hearts of his soldiers.
Later, George Washington’s presidency – which was brought to pass by a unanimous vote, and the only unanimous vote in US history, by the way – was a constant effort to establish the public’s confidence in the new system of government and to demonstrate that politicians could act in integrity and uprightness in their mandate. Prudence, good sense, and above all his high respect for the law were the dominant values of his eight years of government.
Take a moment and just ponder on this giant of a man, George Washington. His accomplishments were the result of a complex combination of values that he gained and polished throughout his lifetime. In the words of Henry Lee III, a comrade of the War of Independence, George Washington was the first in war and thus in peace, filling a large space in the hearts of his countrymen. He described him as a sincere human being, temperate, a just and pious man, worthy of being remembered – and remembered he is!
Read more about Washington´s contribution to America as a Founding Father here on Geeker.