George Washington A Life by Chernov
Chernov brilliantly recounts Washington’s life, detailing Washington’s meteoric rise from a humble rural farmer to the first president. An indication that Chernov was able to bring Washington’s story to life, was that after reading the last chapter when Washington dies, I felt like I had lost a true friend.
Washington’s early life is ambitious and remarkable. By virtue of his older brother marrying Anne Fairfax, the daughter of the Colonel William Fairfax who controlled most of tidewater Virginia, Washington gained access to the most powerful Virginian family which allowed for Washington’s effortless segway from being a surveyor to being district adjutant of Northern Neck Virginia, which carried the military rank of Major.
During this time period, it seems Washington tasted his first defeat having failed miserably to court Betsy Fauntleroy. (I can relate) Chernov states, “George seemed to daydream about one rich, unattainable girl after another.” But Washington, didn’t have time to dwell on those bougie bishes since the then Governor Dinwiddie tasked the 21 year old Washington to deliver a letter from King George II to the French, demanding that the French withdraw from their forts in Ohio: that Washington was able to trudge hundreds of miles through snow, swamps, and hostile indians and return alive, boggles my mind. Washington’s diary even notes that on his return from Fort Duquesne, a hostile indian guide attempted to shoot him but was tackled and saved by one of his party members.
Eventually, the colonies and the French and their indian allies, fought, which had the effect of catapaulting Washington to war hero status since he fought valiantly.
Washington took this respite to court and marry Martha Custis, a very wealthy widow. Interestingly, Washington never had children. Considering he owned books such as “The art of making love” by Aphra Behn and even purchased aphrodisiacs, Washington may have been sterile.
Although Washington was Christian, he didnt harbor any prejudices against other religions. He also recognized the importance of religion in our government: Washington notes, “of all dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.”
Washington’s greatness shines through during the bleak revolutionary war period, where Washington held together an undisciplined army, riddled with disease and facing starvation. Interestingly, Norfolk was destroyed by British naval bombardment. Even Frederick the Great marveled at Washingtons exploits, in defeating the Hessians while eluding the far superior British army, saying, “[Washington’s victories] were the most brilliant of any recorded in the annals of military achievements.” Washington faced one of the greatest armies of the time, with a significant less number of men, arms, and training. Not surprisngly, Indians claimed that Washington was protected by a powerful spirit, since the American victory over the British was miraculous. The 4000 skilled French troops and the arrival of the French armada, however was essential.
Skipping over many heroic American war exploits, we arrive at Cornwallis’s surrender and the withdrawal of the British. In my opinion, the post war period is Washington at his finest. As King George III noted about Washington’s surrendering his command of his armies after the war, “there is no greater man.”
Interestingly, the birth of fake news can be traced to Washingtons first presidential term with the National Gazette, Thomas Jeffersons anti federalist newspaper. It is disturbing that the media in the 18th century accused Washington of being a British agent, a traitor, and a secret monarchist considering that of all Americans, there are few that had sacrificed as much as Washington for independence.
Washington eventually died, and it was a horrible death. In order to treat what was speculated to be a throat infection, the best American doctors basically bled him to death, while he struggled to breathe.
True Interesting Facts:
Washington was not wealthy. In fact he was in debt and had to borrow money to even attend his inauguration. He also freed all his slaves upon his death which when viewed through the time appropriate lenses where humanity was beginning to believe in inalienable rights for all people, and when slavery and serfdom were the norm, this is remarkable.