Learning Virtue from the "Father of his Country"

This page is available in its original format here. It is part of the beautiful Historic Mount Vernon website. We have reproduced it here with some tantalizing self-examination questions to help you discover your "V.Q." (Virtue Quotient)

George Washington Biographical Information

Biographical Notes on George Washington

Boyhood Experience and Training

- His father, Augustine (pronounced A-gus-tin), died when he was eleven; George then lived with his mother, Mary, at Ferry Farm in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and visited his half-brother, Lawrence, at Mount Vernon.

- His father's death ended plans to send George to England to be educated; He felt his lack of higher education later in life. George Washington insisted that Martha's children receive an excellent education; however, he disapproved of foreign schooling, believing it weakened the passion of Americans for freedom. As a boy, Washington's favorite subject was math. Do you seek a more advanced degree so that you can put it on your resume and impress others, or do you seek virtue so you can live a life which is pleasing to God and helps others become more Godly?

Have secular, socialistic government schools weakened your passion for freedom?

- He learned social graces such as good conversation, correct table manners, and proper entertaining from his mother, his half-brother and sister-in-law, Lawrence and Ann, and their neighbors, the Fairfaxes, who lived at Belvoir. His social skills helped him to be at ease with superiors and to be considered for advancement. Do you know how to keep conversation going by asking appropriate questions?

Do you know good table manners, and other forms of etiquette?

Are you able to entertain guests and show them Christian hospitality? Do you keep your home in a way that makes hospitality possible?

Are you at ease with employers, statesmen, teachers, and those who are older than you?

- He was a hard worker even as a youth: he began a journal at age 16 and through practice he developed excellent handwriting. He learned surveying on the job and started his own business, as a surveyor, at age 17. Do you have good work habits? Do you persevere in your work till finished. Do you do a quality job?

What does your handwriting say about you?

Are you or will you soon be in a position to provide employment for others?

- He was physically active and strong. Thomas Jefferson described him as "the best horseman of his age." Washington also loved fox hunting from horseback. His physical stamina helped him on expeditions to the frontier and as a leader in the military. Your body is the temple of God. Do you keep it in good condition? Or is it run-down and in disrepair?

Are you able to perform manual labor to be of service to others?

Leadership and Management Skills

- As commander of Virginia's militia in the French and Indian War (1755-58), he learned how to organize an army of about 1,000 men. Although he made mistakes, he learned a great deal, particularly about recruiting and training men and supplying them with food, clothing, guns and ammunition. Others praised his "method and exactness" in overseeing the details of military operations.

Abraham had well over 1,000 men in his household. Are you becoming a son of Abraham?
- He successfully ran and built up his Mount Vernon plantation into a large business. He divided the plantation into five farms, each of which had a separate overseer who was responsible for that farm. He also managed an active fishery where fish were caught, salted and shipped throughout the colonies and overseas. His farm shops, blacksmith and flour milling in particular, provided services to farmers in the locale. His responsibilities included managing an extended community of slaves and servants that, at its peak, numbered about 315 people. Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.
2 Corinthians 8:21

Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.
Romans 12:17

Now when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his three hundred and eighteen trained servants who were born in his own house, and went in pursuit as far as Dan.
Genesis 14:14

- He applied and further developed these skills in organizing and leading the Revolutionary Army, which numbered about 10,000. He also used these skills in setting up the new federal government as first president.  
- He inspired confidence through his fairness and consideration. He promoted military officers and government officials on the basis of merit, not friendship or social standing. By 1788 he had promoted African American slaves to top positions as overseers of his five farms. Do you know what God's Law says about "fairness and consideration?" About doing what is just rather than favoring the rich or powerful? Can you explain these verses to others, including your children? Is hiring someone based on his physical race as helpful in building Christ's Kingdom as hiring someone based on his spiritual race (virtues and skills)?
- He was very disciplined, placing his principles and civic responsibilities before his own needs, and brought forth the same qualities in others.  
  • He stayed with the Continental Army almost every day of the eight-year Revolutionary War, visiting his home only 10 days between 1775 and 1783.
  • He voluntarily resigned as Commander in Chief after the Revolution, after first quelling plans for a military take-over of the country by his officers (in Newburgh, N.Y., in 1783).
  • He voluntarily resigned from the presidency after two terms in 1797.
- Personally, he was charming and persuasive and his appearance was dignified. He spoke very little during legislative meetings in the Virginia House of Burgesses, during the Continental Congress, and at the Constitutional Convention, but influenced others by being present at or hosting dinners and social meetings where political solutions were discussed. Abigail Adams, wife of the second president, John Adams (who was a rival of Washington's), commented that Washington "...has so happy a faculty of appearing to accommodate and yet carrying his point, that, if he was not really one of the best-intentioned men in the world, he might be a very dangerous one."  
Mount Vernon Life

- Washington greatly expanded his Mount Vernon plantation. He increased the acreage from 2,100 to 8,000, rebuilt the simple farmhouse he inherited into a 2-1/2 story, 20-room Mansion, and designed and built all 12 outbuildings.

-He abandoned tobacco farming around 1765. This ended his economic dependence on English agents to sell his tobacco and gave Mount Vernon greater autonomy and self-sufficiency. His main crop became wheat, but he experimented with over 60 field crops. Fish from the Potomac was an important source of food and cash.  
- He was increasingly conscious of the injustice of slavery. In accordance with his will, his 122 slaves were freed after his death in 1799 and trained in skills or paid pensions to support them until the 1830s. He trained slaves as gardeners, shoemakers, carpenters and weavers to help prepare them for their freedom.  
- He was creative and persistent in solving problems. For example, he overcame the poor soil at Mount Vernon by starting an innovative plan of crop rotation (switching crop type every year) and mulching, which made his farmland able to sustain its yields. He also introduced the mule to America in a successful effort to find an animal better suited to farm work than the horse.  
Philosophy and Politics

- Washington's political views were shaped more by practical experiences than by political theory, yet he possessed an ambitious vision for America. Before the Revolution, he supported the non-importation resolutions of 1769-1771 as much as a means of fostering economic self-sufficiency in America as a way of retaliating against the British.

- He was resolute in his views about what was right and wrong and acted upon them. The British actions after the Boston Tea Party (closing the port of Boston and cancelling the charter of Massachusetts) convinced him that the British were being oppressive and not just misguided. Once convinced, he believed opposition to be a civic and moral duty and denounced British rule as evidence of "...the most despotic system of tyranny that was ever practiced in a free government."  
- He was practical enough to realize as early as 1769 that American protests could easily lead to armed conflicts with the British. Rather than shrink from this, he began to prepare for it by helping train local militia.  
- His vision of a unified nation was similarly based on experience and insight. He knew the problems of a weak national government from trying to supply and pay the Revolutionary Army, and the problems that conflicting state laws caused from his attempts to trade across state borders. He was unusually well-traveled within America (but left America only once, at age 19, on a trip to Barbados), and recognized the nation's potential for expansion on the frontier and for industrial development along the seaboard. As a result:  
  • He supported a strong national government, leading to his presiding over the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787.
  • As president, he supported a central banking system to improve the nation's monetary system and international credit.
Do you know God's Laws on money?
  • He disapproved of political parties as being potentially divisive of people and inappropriate for a president.
Are you a Democrat, Aristocrat, or Christocrat?
  • As president, he insisted on a neutral foreign policy and opposed an alliance with France during its wars with England, even though this cost him personal popularity.
How we know so much about George Washington

- He wrote thousands of letters explaining his beliefs and positions; he kept daily diaries and journals with records of his activities; and he maintained written accounts of all his expenditures. These documents provide unusual insight into his thoughts and feelings and a unique window into life during the 18th century, the operation of a plantation, and conditions during the wars in which he served.

Give ear, O my people, to my law; Incline your ears to the words of my mouth. {3} Which we have heard and known, And our fathers have told us. {4} We will not hide them from their children, Telling to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, And His strength and His wonderful works that He has done. {5} For He established a testimony in Jacob, And appointed a law in Israel, Which He commanded our fathers, That they should make them known to their children; {6} That the generation to come might know them, The children who would be born, That they may arise and declare them to their children, {7} That they may set their hope in God, And not forget the works of God, But keep His commandments; {8} And may not be like their fathers, A stubborn and rebellious generation, A generation that did not set its heart aright, And whose spirit was not faithful to God.
Psalm 78:1-8
Are we making some kind of "false god" out of Washington? No. It's been done, as you can see.

Washington's religion was more Masonic than Christian, and we do not recommend it.

But Washington shows what human beings are capable of. And there is no reason why those who have the "mind of Christ" and Holy Spirit dwelling within them cannot accomplish great things for God.

This website hopes to help in that endeavor, by showing that:

You were predestined to virtue and greatness;

Meditation on God's Law brings success;

and by helping you take a Searching and Fearless Moral Inventory

mythic.gif (31034 bytes)

Even during his lifetime, the near-deification of Washington  changed him from man to mythic being. (NARA 148-GW-583)

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