Monday, November 16, 2009 11/16/09 - washington's half-brother

In today's excerpt - for young George
Washington, a
father dying young, the resulting
interruption of his
education, and the dashing example of an older
half-brother helped forge a burning ambition and

"At his birth in 1732, George Washington's
were poor. He was a product of his father's
second marriage. The sons
from the first marriage, George's
half-brothers, had been provided a formal
education, including study abroad. They also
received a bountiful inheritance when their
father, Augustine Washington, died in 1743.
But Augustine's demise appeared to stop
George's ascent before it began. There was
no money for continuing George's formal
education, much less for sending
him to England to complete his schooling, and
his inheritance was meager.
George received ten slaves and Ferry Farm, a
worn-out tract across the
Rappahannock River from Fredericksburg,
Virginia. With that bequest he
might become an important figure in King
George County, though no one
in the broader world would know him. But from
an early age, George Washington wanted more.
He wanted to stand apart from others. He
wanted to
be seen as a man of substance.

"George said almost nothing about his father,
mentioning him in only
three passing references in thousands of
pages of correspondence. Augustine had
accumulated a small fortune as a tobacco
planter, land speculator,
and proprietor of an iron forge, and he was a
prominent figure in northern
Virginia, where he held several local
offices. Ambitious young males usually
aspire to surpass the accomplishments of
their fathers, and that appears to
have been true of George. Yet it was not
Augustine who was George's role
model. It was Lawrence Washington, an older
brother from their father's
first marriage.

"Fourteen years older than George, Lawrence
had studied in England.
After returning home, he enlisted as an
officer in a colonial army raised to
fight alongside British regulars in a war
with Spain, the oddly named War
of Jenkins' Ear that erupted in 1739.
Lawrence was sent to the Caribbean,
then to South America, where he experienced
combat. The war was a
bloodbath for the American troops, and
Lawrence was fortunate to survive
and return home. Worldly, educated,
well-to-do, dashing in his resplendent
uniform, and deferred to as a hero by the
most influential men and
captivating women in Virginia, Lawrence cut
an impressive figure.

stature increased when he was appointed
adjutant general of Virginia, a
post that made him the foremost soldier in
the province. Soon, he was
elected to the House of Burgesses, Virginia's
assembly, a feat never realized
by Augustine. The crowning touch came in
1743. Lawrence married into
the Fairfax family, which claimed title to
six million acres in Virginia and,
needless to say, was the most prominent clan
in the Northern Neck, the
area around the Rappahannock and Potomac
rivers. Lawrence and his bride
took up residence on a lush green rolling
estate overlooking the Potomac
River. Having inherited the property from his
father, Lawrence named his
country farmhouse in honor of a British
officer under whom he had recently served. He
called it Mount Vernon."

John Ferling, The Ascent of George
Washington, Bloomsbury Press, Copyright 2009
by John Ferling, pp. 9-10, 13.


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