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The Real George Washington ⋆ Epeak . Independent news and blogs

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These are facts and stories one does not hear about too often because they are personal, and not about national politics.

George Washington died a fabulously wealthy man. He was also generous in funding schools and universities. His Last Will and Testament, transcribed at various places, opens this large window into his life — a life well lived.

Here’s an incomplete list of the personal side of the first president at the end of it.

  • He owned a fair number of slaves, but he did not release them, though he “earnestly desired” (his terms) to do so, because many had intermarried with his wife’s slaves, whom she brought into the marriage. (It is a myth that back then a man could control all of his wife’s dower property, whether human, personal or real).
  • If any of his slaves qualified to go free were ill or infirm by reason of age or injury, they were to be well looked after with food and clothing, a kind of retirement system or disability insurance.
  • Slaves who qualified to go free and were under twenty-five and had no parents or were unwilling or unable to provide for them, were to be taught to read and write and to learn a trade of occupation.
  • His slaves were forbidden to be sold or transported away, which was a relief for them because they formed attachments with their families and friends — and yes, even with their owners. (It is a myth that the owner-slave relationship was always and only harsh and cruel, with one beating after another. Economically, a plantation owner wanted his slaves to work, not resist. How could this happen if antagonism prevailed?)
  • His mulatto (half white and half black) “man” — another word for personal groom or valet, or in today’s jargon a personal assistant — was to get his freedom immediately upon the president’s decease because William Lee (the personal assistant) had served the president faithfully during the Revolutionary War and on through life. In short, they had formed an attachment of mutual respect and endearment.
  • William Lee got an annuity of thirty dollars per annum for the rest of his life. This amount was adequate for back then.
  • President Washington donated $4,000.00 (twenty shares he held in the bank of Alexandria) to be held in trust fund a “free school” for poor and indigent orphans who others who were too poor to pay their way.
  • The president got one hundred shares of one hundred dollars each in the company that was rendering navigable the James River from the Tidewater to the mountains. He bequeathed these shares to the benefit of Liberty Hall Academy, in Rockbridge County, Virginia.
  • He also got fifty shares of fifty pounds sterling in a company established to open the navigation of the Potomac from the Tidewater to Fort Cumberland. He bequeathed these shares to the founding of a university within the boundaries of the District of Columbia.
  • Those two investment gifts were done in appreciation for “compensation for any services I could render my Country in its arduous struggle with Great Britain for its Rights” and other honorable reasons.
  • The president intended to start a university away from Virginia and the east coast, in the middle of the country to avoid local attachments and state prejudices. He proposed to start the university in a “central part of the country.”
  • The education offered at this university had this curriculum and purpose: “the branches of polite literature, in Arts and Sciences, in acquiring knowledge in the principles of Politics & good government; and (as a matter of infinite importance in my judgment) by associating with each other, and forming friendships in juvenile years, be enabled to free themselves in a proper degree from those local prejudices & habitual jealousies which have just been mentioned; and which when carried to excess are never failing sources of disquietude to the public mind; and pregnant of mischievous consequences to this Country, under these impressions so fully dilated [expanded or opened].”
  • He owned property in the town of Manchester and bequeathed it to his nephew William Augustine Washington.
  • He gave his papers concerning the civil and military administration of this country to his nephew Bushrod Washington.
  • He had sold or leased land in Pennsylvania, New York, and Virginia, and the proceeds deriving from them were to be given to his wife Martha.
  • The Earl of Buchan gave to the president the oak box preserved by William Wallace (yes, that William Wallace) who fought for the freedom of Scotland. The earl instructed him to pass it on, but since it was such a precious gift, he gave it back to the earl.
  • He bequeathed the spy glasses he used during the Revolutionary War to Lawrence and Robert Washington. He bequeathed to them his two gold-headed canes with his arms on them.
  • He gave his three-volume Bible with notes to Rev. Bryan, now Lord Fairfax.
  • He bequeathed a pair of finely wrought pistols he took from the enemy in the Revolutionary War to General Lafayette.
  • He gave to his nephews his swords and “cutteaux.”
  • His nephew Bushrod attended to Mt. Vernon during the Revolutionary War, so the president gave part of it to him.
  • During the Revolutionary War, George Fayette Washington and Lawrence Augustine Washington took care of his affairs during his public service, so they got 3137 acres.
  • The president took care of his wife’s grandchildren and bequeathed to them considerable property; and the same went for his many nieces and nephews.
  • He ordered that he should be buried in the brick family vault on his property at Mt. Vernon.
  • He did not want a parade or funeral oration at his decease.

President Washington tallied up his stocks and investments and land holding and concluded they were all worth $530,000. In today’s terms, a modern converter gives these amounts:

Current data is only available till 2015. In 2015, the relative price worth of $530,000.00 from 1799 is:

$10,500,000.00 using the Consumer Price Index

$9,980,000.00 using the GDP deflator

From these facts it is clear that President Washington lived a full and generous life. He had natural leadership ability, and his friends and family — often the harshest critics — fully respected and admired him.

The entire nation admired him. It is now easy (for me at least) to see why, on a personal level: a man of integrity and honor and humility.

James Arlandson’s website is Live as Free People, where he has posted a humber of other pieces on George Washington.

These are facts and stories one does not hear about too often because they are personal, and not about national politics.

George Washington died a fabulously wealthy man. He was also generous in funding schools and universities. His Last Will and Testament, transcribed at various places, opens this large window into his life — a life well lived.

Here’s an incomplete list of the personal side of the first president at the end of it.

  • He owned a fair number of slaves, but he did not release them, though he “earnestly desired” (his terms) to do so, because many had intermarried with his wife’s slaves, whom she brought into the marriage. (It is a myth that back then a man could control all of his wife’s dower property, whether human, personal or real).
  • If any of his slaves qualified to go free were ill or infirm by reason of age or injury, they were to be well looked after with food and clothing, a kind of retirement system or disability insurance.
  • Slaves who qualified to go free and were under twenty-five and had no parents or were unwilling or unable to provide for them, were to be taught to read and write and to learn a trade of occupation.
  • His slaves were forbidden to be sold or transported away, which was a relief for them because they formed attachments with their families and friends — and yes, even with their owners. (It is a myth that the owner-slave relationship was always and only harsh and cruel, with one beating after another. Economically, a plantation owner wanted his slaves to work, not resist. How could this happen if antagonism prevailed?)
  • His mulatto (half white and half black) “man” — another word for personal groom or valet, or in today’s jargon a personal assistant — was to get his freedom immediately upon the president’s decease because William Lee (the personal assistant) had served the president faithfully during the Revolutionary War and on through life. In short, they had formed an attachment of mutual respect and endearment.
  • William Lee got an annuity of thirty dollars per annum for the rest of his life. This amount was adequate for back then.
  • President Washington donated $4,000.00 (twenty shares he held in the bank of Alexandria) to be held in trust fund a “free school” for poor and indigent orphans who others who were too poor to pay their way.
  • The president got one hundred shares of one hundred dollars each in the company that was rendering navigable the James River from the Tidewater to the mountains. He bequeathed these shares to the benefit of Liberty Hall Academy, in Rockbridge County, Virginia.
  • He also got fifty shares of fifty pounds sterling in a company established to open the navigation of the Potomac from the Tidewater to Fort Cumberland. He bequeathed these shares to the founding of a university within the boundaries of the District of Columbia.
  • Those two investment gifts were done in appreciation for “compensation for any services I could render my Country in its arduous struggle with Great Britain for its Rights” and other honorable reasons.
  • The president intended to start a university away from Virginia and the east coast, in the middle of the country to avoid local attachments and state prejudices. He proposed to start the university in a “central part of the country.”
  • The education offered at this university had this curriculum and purpose: “the branches of polite literature, in Arts and Sciences, in acquiring knowledge in the principles of Politics & good government; and (as a matter of infinite importance in my judgment) by associating with each other, and forming friendships in juvenile years, be enabled to free themselves in a proper degree from those local prejudices & habitual jealousies which have just been mentioned; and which when carried to excess are never failing sources of disquietude to the public mind; and pregnant of mischievous consequences to this Country, under these impressions so fully dilated [expanded or opened].”
  • He owned property in the town of Manchester and bequeathed it to his nephew William Augustine Washington.
  • He gave his papers concerning the civil and military administration of this country to his nephew Bushrod Washington.
  • He had sold or leased land in Pennsylvania, New York, and Virginia, and the proceeds deriving from them were to be given to his wife Martha.
  • The Earl of Buchan gave to the president the oak box preserved by William Wallace (yes, that William Wallace) who fought for the freedom of Scotland. The earl instructed him to pass it on, but since it was such a precious gift, he gave it back to the earl.
  • He bequeathed the spy glasses he used during the Revolutionary War to Lawrence and Robert Washington. He bequeathed to them his two gold-headed canes with his arms on them.
  • He gave his three-volume Bible with notes to Rev. Bryan, now Lord Fairfax.
  • He bequeathed a pair of finely wrought pistols he took from the enemy in the Revolutionary War to General Lafayette.
  • He gave to his nephews his swords and “cutteaux.”
  • His nephew Bushrod attended to Mt. Vernon during the Revolutionary War, so the president gave part of it to him.
  • During the Revolutionary War, George Fayette Washington and Lawrence Augustine Washington took care of his affairs during his public service, so they got 3137 acres.
  • The president took care of his wife’s grandchildren and bequeathed to them considerable property; and the same went for his many nieces and nephews.
  • He ordered that he should be buried in the brick family vault on his property at Mt. Vernon.
  • He did not want a parade or funeral oration at his decease.

President Washington tallied up his stocks and investments and land holding and concluded they were all worth $530,000. In today’s terms, a modern converter gives these amounts:

Current data is only available till 2015. In 2015, the relative price worth of $530,000.00 from 1799 is:

$10,500,000.00 using the Consumer Price Index

$9,980,000.00 using the GDP deflator

From these facts it is clear that President Washington lived a full and generous life. He had natural leadership ability, and his friends and family — often the harshest critics — fully respected and admired him.

The entire nation admired him. It is now easy (for me at least) to see why, on a personal level: a man of integrity and honor and humility.

James Arlandson’s website is Live as Free People, where he has posted a humber of other pieces on George Washington.

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