Last week while in the DC area I took a visit to Mt. Vernon which I would highly recommend. It is an education into the life of GW the man, and not just the iconic figure that sits on the dollar bill. One interesting thing they have done is to construct images and statues of how he would have looked in his 20s and 30s since there are few portraits from this period. His early life was new to me and it is the story of a young ambitious man, whose father died early leaving most of the wealth to his old brother. GW, though guided by his older brother, was left to support himself and took up the trade of surveying. He learned the terrain of the expanding territories around Virginia and Maryland. He was an excellent horseman and outdoorsman. He began his land speculations at this time, eventually obtaining over 50,000 acres. He joined the British in fighting the French in disputed western and Ohio territories and was a colonel by the age of 23. He was involved with the first shots of that 7 Years War and showed many acts of leadership and bravery. After the war he married a widow of means to begin his life as a country planter in Virginia. This was cut short with the events of the Revolutionary War which occupied the next 8 years of his life, returning home just once.

What sets him apart from the other founding fathers is that he was first a military man, second a man of enterprise and afterward a man of government. He had immense power and was hugely popular, but he chose to leave government for his beloved Mt Vernon. He only had two years to do so before his death. This act of giving up power was his greatest achievement and is one of the cornerstones of our republic today. A visit to Mt. Vernon brings GW out of mythic stature to real life, where I learned about a very practical and able man, who had the courage to take big risks on his way to achieving greatness.


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