hi, everybody. this is stefan molyneux fromfreedomain radio. i hope you're doing well. yes! first thing is first. i know we havea very lengthy presentation here on the truth about george washington. but if there is onetruth about presentation to watch on this channel, this would be the one. there is sucha wealth of shock, wisdom, surprise, disaster, salvation in the man's life that it is a veritablefount of illustrative wisdom. so i hope that you will follow us along. ifyou're on youtube, of course you can leave the browser return and it should pick up whereyou left off. of course, you can also go to fdrpodcast.com to download the audio. so wehave a lot of material to go through. let's dive straight into the truth about georgewashington.
as you know i'm sure, george washington, theonly president unanimously elected as the first president of the post-constitution ofthe united of america after winning the american revolutionary war as the commander-in-chiefof the continental army. washington was first called "father of his country" three yearsafter the beginning of the revolutionary war - a status he earned not only for his militaryaccomplishments but also because of the numerous virtues. he was perceived to possess as ahuman being/military political demigod. but within washington's impeccable character,one quality stood out for people the most: his unique immunity to the corrupting effectsof power which stemmed from his selfless nature. the great poet robert frost said, "i oftensay of george washington that he was one of
the few in the whole history of the worldwho was not carried away by power," america's great poet-philosopher. of course, after workingfor years to overthrow the tyranny of the british empire, americans were a little unwillingto trust anyone with the power of a central government. but in george washington, of course,they saw a man who had transcended human fallibility. "had he lived in the days of idolatry," thepennsylvania journal noted in 1777, "washington would have been worshipped as a god. so anice stuff to have in your resume. as president, abraham lincoln remarked, "washingtonis the mightiest name of earthâ€”long since mightiest in the cause of civil liberty; stillmightiest in moral reformation. to add brightness to the sun, or glory to the name of washington,is alike impossible. let none attempt it.
in solemn awe pronounce the name, and in itsnaked deathless splendor, leave it shining on." so that's nice too. how could such a man everabuse his power let alone become a tyrant? furthermore, if men, like washington, existand can be elected into power, perhaps the united states government would never followin the footsteps of the hated british empire and never become an imperialistic power withthe military bases overseas. does the mortal george washington live upto his immortal legend? what is the truth about george washington? so let's start before the beginning, whichis where these tendencies always arise, augustine,
george washington's father, was a rich virginiaplanter and slave owner who came from an ancient noble family that traced its roots back tomedieval england. the progenitors of the washington clan had fought under william the conquerorduring the norman conquest and were awarded land and title for their service. coincidentallyenough, my family fought under william the conqueror awarded land and title for our service,nothing like killing peasants to get you some sod in ireland. augustine, george washington's father, wasleft an orphan at the age of seven after his mother died. he had lost his father threeyears earlier. now, of course, we are way back in history so there's an airstrike ofmortality that seems to land with fair regularity
on people. it's a good thing we've left inthe rearview of history, but it's a common theme throughout this family clan; of course,most families at the time. but the tragic instability in george washington's fatheras a young boy had only just begun. his mother had remarried after the death ofher first husband. and so the young boy was placed in the care of his stepfather. thestepfather seems to have been pretty much out of grimm's fairy tales where stepmothersand stepfathers which often are perceived to be psychological replacements for realmothers and fathers was not a particularly pleasant fellow. after a series of legal battlesover inheritance, the cousin of augustine became head guardian until he came of age.so lost his father, there were huge amounts
of battles with the stepfather, and then hewas given to a guardian. augustine found a kindred spirit in a ladynamed jane butler, a 16-year-old orphan, who he married at the age of 21. not only didthey come from similar backgrounds but jane's 1,740-acre dowry augmented his 1,100-acreinheritance, which of course wasnâ€™t overlooked by a man who's described as a remorselesshard-driving businessman. augustine had also inherited his ancestor's insatiable hungerfor land and throughout his life worked tirelessly to increase his wealth. so a brief aside here, we're talking aboutvirginia as you probably know. virginia means "tobacco," and tobacco is a crop that severelyexhausts the soil. certainly in the way that
it was farmed back then, after a couple ofyears maybe three or four at the most, the soil was pretty much exhausted and you hadto get new land. this drive to expand one's holdings was not mere land lust, but alsohad something to do with the nature of tobacco farming and the degree to which to continuefarming tobacco, you constantly needed new land. jane gave augustine four children before dyingprematurely at the age of 29. the washington's firstborn baby died in infancy, and so theremaining three children were now in the sole care of the always-busy augustine. findinga second wife became a top priority for the widower, and after a two-year courtship, hemarried mary ball in 1730. and so here we
have some challenges of course in the familyhistory. you have of course a man, who's an orphan, marrying a woman who is an orphan,a man with conflicted and difficult relationship with his parents marrying a woman who wasan orphan and therefore had no relation with their parents. so that is a compatibilitythat can sow some seeds of dysfunction to say the least. so mary ball, augustine's second wife andgeorge washington's mother, came from a wealthy, high-status family that belonged to the gentryclass of virginia. her father, joseph, was a militia leader and a member of the prestigioushouse of burgesses -- the first legislature in the english north american colonies. havinglost his first wife, joseph made a decision
that skirted on the edge of local scandal-- at the age of 58 he married an illiterate widow despite the protests of his children. mary was the product of this second marriage,but much like augustine, she never got to know her biological father because in thetragic domino of death known as this time period, he died when she was only three yearsold. within about a year, her mother found a third husband, who also died shortly afterthe marriage. as if losing both her father and stepfather wasn't enough, mary becamean orphan at the age of 12, following the death of her mother. basically, there are arguments out there thatsay that you cannot find a childhood before
the 18th century that wasnâ€™t unbelievablytragic, at least in the way that the children were raised which was very roughly as youcan imagine. and also just the endless parade of scything parent-decapitating death thatseem to happen to families regularly. very, very traumatic childhoods. raised into adulthood by george eskridge,her guardian, mary never received the education that was expected of a woman with her socialstatus. we'll see, of course, as the story goes on that mary, george washington's mother,also denied him an education as she herself was denied an education. eskridge later introduced mary to augustinewashington, highlighting the immense wealth
and assets she had inherited from her parents.one biographer points out that, "at 23, mary was already slightly old for marriage, whichmay say something about her feisty personality or about augustine's hopeful conviction thathe could tame this indomitable woman." marriage, of course, particularly among therich was primarily a business transaction in those days, augustine likely saw a womanwho shared much of his childhood trauma and identified with his pain. it's a coincidencethat mary was the second orphan that he decided to marry. george washington was named after his mother'sguardian -- george eskridge -- and he was born in february 1732. since augustine wasoften away on business trips, george never
really bonded with his father. as two scholarspoint out, "never being close to his father, the young boy developed a sense of love deprivation."in all likelihood, the cold and emotionally unavailable augustine never sought such abond to begin with. so the orphans, of course, they have no relationshipwith the parents who are dead, i think that there is a significant amount of torture havinga parent who is around but not available, like not emotionally bonded because then it'slike just out of reach, always proximate and you're always hoping it's kind of a torturei think for kids. and i think could also be more tortuous in some ways than with the relativebiological closure that comes from being orphaned. almost nothing is known about george's relationshipto his father, partly because in thousands
of pages of correspondence he mentions hisfather in only three passing references. indeed, as far as the future "father" of the unitedstates was concerned, his own father was nothing but a dark and distant shadow. now, there is a significant lack of informationabout george washington's boyhood, so naturally there's endless speculation and mythologizingthat goes on. it's a perfect blank screen to project people's thoughts and feelingson. many biographers crafted stories that would weave 19th and 20th century ideals intothe young boy's character, turning him into a role model for future generation of kids.what would washington do i'm sure became pretty considerably influence for kids throughoutthe post-washington period.
according to one well-known story, young georgeadmitted to having cut down his father's cherry tree after he was confronted about it. "icannot tell a lie," claimed the boy, "i did cut it with my hatchet." augustine, movedby this confession, embraced his son in recognition that such honesty is worth more than a thousandtrees." the story was actually invented by one of washington's first biographers, actuallymore of a hagiographer or somebody who writes the lives of saints to be precise. there'sno evidence that this ever happened, but the story caught on. the emotional scars left by the lack of paternalcare paled in comparison to the damage inflicted by george's mother. mary was not only a selfish,possessive, and strong-minded woman, but an
unpredictable, imperious, and volatile oneas well. underneath the distant and aloof exterior of young george lay boiling ragedirected at a mother who "spared no effort to reduce him to obedience as a means of augmentingher own personal comfort." historian ron chernow offers a detailed descriptionof the impact mary had on her son: "there would always be a cool, quiet antagonism betweengeorge washington and his mother. the hypercritical mother produced a son who was overly sensitiveto criticism and suffered from a lifelong need for approval. one suspects that, in dealingwith this querulous woman, george became an overly controlled personality and learnedto master his temper and curb his tongue. it was the extreme self-control of a deeplyemotional young man who feared the fatal vehemence
of his own feelings, if left unchecked." he continues: "anything pertaining to maryball, washington stirred up an emotional tempest in george quelled only with difficulty. neverable to express these forbidden feelings of rage, he learned to equate silence and a certainmanly stolidity with strength. this boyhood struggle was, in all likelihood, the genesisof the stoical personality that would later define him so indelibly." throughout his life, washington continuallydistanced himself from his mother, mary. aside from providing her with financial support,he avoided the abusive woman who was becoming increasingly embittered in her old age. whenshe died at the age of 83, he didnâ€™t even
attend her funeral. at the age of three, george had his firstexposure to death after his older half sister died. several years later, another tragedybefell the washington family -- augustine fell ill and died at the age of 49; georgewas 11 years old at the time. this is a mindset that's important to understandduring this time period, 18th century and before. the life expectancy was not very long.now, life expectancy in the roman empire was like 22, but if you made it out of childhood,you were likely to live for a longer period of time. but a uti, anything could just bang,kill you dead. teeth, of course, were a huge part and washington had massive problems withhis teeth throughout his life. but in the
modern world we're cautious because i'm goingto live forever. i'm going to live to be 80 or 90 or whatever. but george washington hadthroughout his life a feeling that he wasnâ€™t going to make it much past his early to mid-40sbecause so many of his family members had died at that time. that gave him a certainrecklessness which we'll see. so george was 11 when his father died. hismother then became a widow, of course, at the age of 35 and instead of remarrying, aswas customary at the time, she chose the life of a single mother. one of the reasons shemay have made that decision is that if she were to remarry, her husband would be in chargeof the significant fortunes left by her deceased spouse, augustine. augustine, through hardwork, had planted his family firmly among
the regional gentry, acquiring 50 slaves and10,000 acres of land. now, it's important to remember that, of course,only a few percentage points of people in america, even in the south, owned slaves,like 4% or 5% of people own slaves. but a slave cost about as much as a car. so thisis like leno style garage or a seinfeld style garage. so think 50 expensive cars, 10,000acres of land, that's quite a lot of money. likely due to her controlling personality,mary chose to run the affairs of the washington estate all by herself -- well, of course,with the help of her children. while mary's two stepsons were starting their own lives,the young george was the one she turned into a surrogate husband. now, this, of course,is a pattern as all this time that a single
mom can often fix upon one of her sons asa surrogate husband, much to the emotional detriment of both. "one wonders whether he [george] resentedhis mother for her failure to find a second husband, which imposed inordinate burdenson him as the eldest son," noted a washington biographer. the death of augustine sadly marked the endof george's formal education, which was limited to basic math, reading and writing. whilemary didnâ€™t send her son to a prestigious english school -- a privilege enjoyed by george'solder half-brothers -- it's unclear why she neglected his education to such a degree.perhaps she wanted to keep him around so he
could assist in the supervision of the estate,or her own lack of education prevented her from seeing the value of such knowledge. there is, of course, a certain amount of self-sacrificethat is necessary for parents who wish their children to vastly outstrip their own capacities.it doesnâ€™t seem based upon reports of her personality that mary, mother of george, wassuch a person. whatever the reason, washington remained profoundlyinsecure about his limited education, which he did supplement, of course, to a degreeby doing exercises on his own and copying important documents to memorize any practicalinformation he could find. "the degree to which washington dwelt uponthe transcendent importance of education underscores
the stigma that he felt about having missedcollege," noted a biographer. later in life, washington was often the subject of condescensionfrom his college-educated contemporaries in the american elite. john adams, for example,described him as "too illiterate, unlearned, unread for his station and reputation." had mary remarried, george would have beenable to go to college -- a factor that likely added to the resentment the boy felt towardshis mother. watching your half-brothers go to college while you have to stay home andtend a single mom in the family farm could make people a little upset. lawrence washington had a huge impact on george.he was george's older half-brother. he's older
by 14 years. and in terms of the influenceof the development of the future president, he was second only to mary. so when george was five in 1737, he met lawrencefor the first time. lawrence who was studying in england up until that point quickly becamea surrogate father for the young boy given how little time augustine invested in parenting. as one scholar noted, "lawrence would functionas both a peer and a parental figure for his half brother, and his youthful adventuresoperated so powerfully on george's imagination that the latter's early life seems to enacta script first drafted by his older brother." part of that script involved military service.when the british declared war on the spanish
empire in 1739, lawrence saw an opportunityto increase his social status -- of course, back in the day, military service was theeasiest way to climb the social ladder. he became a captain in the british army afterobtaining the prestigious royal captain's commission and he served for two years. although lawrence didnâ€™t actually participatein any combat activities, unlike george in the future, and he only observed battles froma distance, his letters and war stories left a deep impression on his young brother: "lawrencefrequently talked to george of war and the honors and glories of a soldier's life...as a youngster, george confided to lawrence that if one had to die, dying in battle wouldbe the most honorable."
the first son of a single mother to be highlyinterested in combat whether in the street or on the battlefield, the degree to whichdistant fathers don't help their sons achieve positive and benevolent masculinity can beto some degree, the degree to which they end up with this caricature of masculinity whichinvolves significant and overaggression so often. roughly a year after his return from the warand three months after his father's death, lawrence married ann fairfax, the daughterof colonel william fairfax -- a british politician who "wielded breathtaking power in tidewatervirginia." on behalf of his cousin, the sixth baron fairfax, sir william was administering,yes, 5 million acres of land in colonial virginia.
a washington biographer wrote, "through amaze of business dealings and social and marital ties, fairfax power ramified into every cornerof virginia society." so the fact that lawrence married the daughterof pretty much the most powerful landowner around was going to have a huge influenceon where george washington was going to end up. having acquired the backing of the fairfaxes,lawrence eventually amassed land, got elected to the house of burgesses -- remember thepolitical assembly -- and was even appointed adjutant general of virginia, which broughthim the rank of major and put him in charge of the state's militia.
above all, lawrence's marriage opened up thedoors to belvoir -- the fairfax estate -- for his brother george. seeking refuge from hismother, who became even more abusive after the death of augustine, the young boy becamea frequent guest at the aristocratic mansion. during those visits, colonel fairfax becamefond of george and decided to take him under his wing. the stage was now set for washington's ascentto power. under the patronage of colonel fairfax, george acquired the political power and skillsthat would allow him to move through the upper echelons of society. unbeknownst to mary, lawrence and colonelfairfax devised a secret plan for george to
join the british royal navy, which would freethe young boy from the clutches of his smother and launch him on a promising career. george embraced the idea but there was onefinal obstacle -- his mother mary. when he eventually notified his mother of the plan,she approved of it at first. mary then consulted a family friend on the matter, but her mindwas already made up -- "one word against his going has more weight than ten for it." sheeventually vetoed the plan and george bowed to her decision. one of his biographers describedhis mother's motivation: "one can say with certainty that it was thefirst of many times she seemed to measure her son's worth not by what he might accomplishelsewhere but by what he could do for her,
even if it meant thwarting his career. shewould always be strangely indifferent toward his ambitions, making decisions about himfrom a purely self-interested standpoint. on the other hand, she was a single mother,clearly valued george's abilities as the eldest son, and deemed him a necessary substitutefor the missing father." the following year, the washingtons experiencedsevere financial difficulties due to mary's poor management of the estate, and so george,at the age of 15, decided to become a surveyor -- a well-paid job with roughly the same statusas a doctor or a lawyer. now, being a surveyor required governmentpull, government connections. there's a reason why a 15-year-old could get a job at the samestatus as a doctor or lawyer, and it is because
of his political connections. this is nota free market activity although it is. i did gold panning and surveying and claims takingafter high school. i spent in total a year and a half working in the wilderness in atent through the winter, minus 30. it's hard work although, of course, it didnâ€™t getthat cold in virginia. so washington's connections to the fairfaxfamily, yet again, proved invaluable in this undertaking. in 1746, baron fairfax decidedto carve up his vast dominion into salable leaseholds and so he made a trip to virginia.the young and inexperienced george was hired to join a surveying expedition and eventuallybecame the youngest county surveyor in virginia's history.
"to become a county surveyor, one ordinarilyhad to endure a lengthy apprenticeship and to have accumulated considerable experiencerunning surveys. young washington had neither. obtaining this post was his introduction topolitics, for he could not have gotten the position had not powerful patrons -- doubtlesslawrence and the fairfaxes -- pulled the necessary strings." so it also reminds me -- this guy, at 15,he becomes a surveyor; at 17, he's running a surveying company -- how much opportunityis squandered in society by keeping able and intelligent teenagers cooped up in schoolsbut topic for another time. so george was running his own surveying businessby the age of 17, which brought him a significant
income. many of his surveys were conductedon land that belonged to a large land speculation organization -- the ohio company -- whosefounders included his older half-brothers and many of the fairfaxes. so they gave himthe capacity to do the job through pulling political strings and then they gave him jobsthemselves. over the next few years, washington amassedenough capital to begin his career in land speculation. he was now well on his way tobecoming one of the wealthiest men in virginia. by the age of 20, he owned 2,500 acres onthe virginia frontier. oh, what's that old saying? i would say at least up until themodern times, the foundation of all wealth is a crime and given the amount of politicalpull that was required to propel him to this
level of wealth. it's not that distant fromthe definition. despite his financial success, the young washingtonstruggled to contain his volcanic temper, which was a significant impediment to hissocial ascent. baron fairfax, recognizing this aspect of george's personality, wroteto his mother: "i wish i could say that he governs his temper. he is subject to attacksof anger on provocation, sometimes without just cause." that goes to show you there's no amount ofsuccess in the world that will make your personality a better place to live. colonel fairfax, who once boasted that hehad trained himself to make no outward show
of emotion, was likely the one who introducedwashington to the greco-roman philosophy of stoicism. the 17-year-old young man was profoundlyinfluenced by seneca in particular, a roman philosopher and politician who emphasizedsacrifice, tenacity, courage, restraint, and the control of one's emotions. so this is a long time before the socraticdictum or mandate to know thyself; know your own motivations, know your own thoughts andfeelings had come back full circle through freud and jung and adler and the self-helpmovement at the mid to late 20th century. and so if you have a volcanic temper and ahuge amount of boiling rage, this sort of push it down and ice it over generally causesa lot of problems elsewhere. the rage comes
out somewhere and we'll see this going forwardwith george washington. in the writings of the stoics, washingtonfound justification for suppressing and concealing his emotions. seneca, for example, roman butalso honorary half-vulcan, viewed anger as "the most outrageous, brutal, dangerous, andintractable of all passions, the most loathsome and unmannerly, nay, the most ridiculous too." i think aristotle had a better handle on anger,which he said, the aristotelian mean is like a bell curve of virtue too little anger andyou get pushed around; too much anger, you become a bully. there is a right amount ofanger in the middle that is a challenge to achieve and maintain but is a very healthypart of psychological health.
so several years later, colonel fairfax complimentedwashington on his practice of a philosophic state of mind. although he was moderatelysuccessful in masking his emotions in public, washington's temper remained a defining featurethroughout his life. "according to his secretary, tobias lear, few sounds on earth could comparewith that of george washington swearing a blue streak," noted a historian. he was well known for cursing to the pointwhere people expected birds to fall from the sky in shock. george washington and colonel fairfax alsoshared a fascination with war, exchanged books on caesar and alexander the great, and frequentlyswapped views on military heroes from antiquity.
the young businessman would soon have an opportunityto quench his thirst for war -- an opportunity he would not miss. in 1752, washington's semi-father substitute,lawrence, died of tuberculosis at the age of 33. the untimely death of the older brotherhad a transformative effect on the younger one. as lawrence lay on his deathbed, georgedecided to abandon his career as a surveyor to become a soldier, and so he asked virginia'sgovernor to appoint him as adjutant for the northern neck district despite the fact thathe lacked any military training or experience. what did he need those for when you have politicalcontacts? washington achieved partial success -- hewas awarded the southern district instead.
not satisfied with this low-prestige appointment,he employed his powerful patrons to lobby on his behalf. at the same time, the ambitiousgeorge became a lifelong freemanson to expand his political contacts and to leverage theinfluence of the masonic lodges; he was promoted to the highest rank of master mason withina single year. his efforts at political lobbying did payoff. in 1753, the 20-year-old businessman was appointed adjutant to the northern neckand was given the title of major george washington. in his first political battle he was alternatelyfawning and assertive, appealingly modest and distressingly pushy." as one of his biographersnoted, "while he knew the social forms, he could never quite restrain, much less conceal,the unstoppable force of his ambition."
tensions between britain and its bitter rivalfrance began escalating in the early 1750s and george washington played a key role inwhat was to come. the two superpowers, france and britain, were contesting the ownershipof the ohio country, a fertile region in the modern-day midwest of the united states. in 1750, france deployed an army in the region,threatening virginia's interest in the lucrative frontier land. remember they got to expandbecause of the exhausting nature of growing tobacco crops. so the frontier land was aportion of the ohio country that was supposedly belonged to the ohio company, whose directorwas the royal governor of virginia, robert dinwiddie.
dinwiddie, of course, was not eager to starta war -- we cannot expand land when it's soaked in blood -- waited for the british crown'sinstructions on how to proceed with the delicate situation. in 1753, great britain decidedto inform the french army of its claims to the land and demand the withdrawal of allfrench troops. someone had to carry this message and washingtonvolunteered for the job. was he a diplomat? did he understand this? did he even speakfrench? a number of public officials considered him too inexperienced for a diplomatic missionof such importance, but after colonel fairfax put in a word on behalf of his protã©gã©,dinwiddie commissioned washington for the job.
and so the dominoes were set in motion. off the record, george was told to scout outa location where virginia might be able to build a fort. the ohio company could legallyclaim the land it wanted only if such an installation was established. so this was your standardin labor and so on. if you build a fort, then the area around it is considered owned bythe local state. the mission went fairly smoothly. washington'sparty was intercepted by a french patrol, but the virginians were treated cordiallyand were sent back home several days later. this is important. the french were dealingrather justly and reasonably with the virginians. let's see how it went the other way.
washington was to deliver a letter containingthe french army's refusal to accept britain's claim to the land. the french regarded theterritory as theirs by right of discovery and exploration. i think it's fairly safeto say that if you're wondering around their enemy soldiers there, according to the lawof the time, it could be considered close to french land, let's put it that way. in response to the french army's refusal toaccept britain's claim to the land, governor dinwiddie raised a 300-man volunteer army,and major washington wasted no time contacting influential political figures in virginiaabout an appointment to a higher rank than he currently held. he was promoted to a lieutenantcolonel, not a colonel, because he didnâ€™t
wish to head the virginia army. vain thoughhe was, washington probably recognized that he had no experience as a solder, let alonea military commander. so he was tasked with the building of a fort,washington, who led only 186 men, was dispatched to the ohio country while the army commanderstayed behind to recruit more men. "we donâ€™t have enough men. go into the wilderness. builda fort. i'm sure you'll be fine." along the way, the lieutenant colonel's armystarted falling apart as the volunteer solders grumbled about their low pay, dwindling rum,and the wet, inhospitable conditions, some deserted, others threatened to follow suit.fearing disgrace before his superiors, washington was desperate to appease his men, and so heexceeded his authority by confiscating supplies
along the way. this, of course, was a huge problem in america.during the seven years' war, the revolutionary war, the british and, of course, to some degreethe americans would just come and take stuff, which was pretty bad if you were settlingin for the winter and only had enough food to get you through till spring. washington, when he was 22, wrote: "i doubtnot that in some points i may have strained the law; but i hope, as my sole motive wasto expedite the march, i shall be supported in it, should my authority be questioned."he might have strained the law by stealing supplies when he was supposed to be payinghis men. did he ever take his own money and
pay the men that way? well, not so much. washington even went behind dinwiddie's backto raise the issue of pay before the governor's council. on the march, there were more pressing issuesto deal with. about 25 miles way from his destination, washington received a very poorlywritten message from tanacharison, one of his indian allies, warning him that an unknownnumber of french soldiers were heading his way with the intention of meeting him. this indian, also known as the half king,seemed to suggest that the french were out to strike the english. this wasnâ€™t true,and the half king was either blinded by his
francophobia, the half king claimed that hehated the french because they had supposedly killed, boiled and eaten his father or perhapshe intentionally lied about it. so you get a poorly written message from a guy who thinksthe french ate his father and apparently that's legit is the phrase that scrolls across yourmind at the time. so whatever the case was, washington was notsure about how to interpret the message, so he stopped advancing and began to entrenchhimself, so dig in some defenses. several days later, he was notified by one of hismen, i assume a scout, that a french party of less than 50 solders was approaching hisposition. if the french wanted to strike the english, why would they attack with such asmall force? it really doesnâ€™t make much
sense at all. washington decided to engage in a preemptivestrike. this was a clear violation of the orders he had received from governor dinwiddieweeks earlier which were: "you are to act on the defensive, but in case any attemptsare made to obstruct the works or interrupt our settlements by any persons whatsoever,you are to restrain all such offenders and in case of resistance to make prisoners ofor kill and destroy them." so his orders are do not initiate aggression against the enemy.only if you are obstructed and they resist are you allowed to attack them. now, the military has to operate on orders,at least the military of the time and if you
are not authorized to use force and you goaround killing people, kind of like the my lai massacre in vietnam insofar as you arethen guilty of the crime of murder because you are not authorized to initiate aggression. so he wanted to commit a surprise attack againstthe french, so washington took only 40 men along with about half as many indians. inmay 1754, he ambushed an unsuspecting group of 33 french soldiers early in the morningwhile they were making breakfast. yes, croissants, eggs and lead was on the menu; and this isagain he was not authorized to do this. this would be a court martial offense in any reasonablearmy of the time. whether he was incompetent or just full ofbloodlust -- remember we talked about the
rage that was suppressed -- the young deputycommander washington, before giving the signal for attack, ignored the fact that the supposedlyhostile force hadnâ€™t set up any kind of defensive perimeter. they were just amblingthrough the forest having some breakfast. as historian john ferling has noted: "washingtonwas mad for glory. he was eager to prove his courage both to his officers and to powerfulfigures in virginia, and zealous for the combat that would bring the renown for which he hungered. it was a bloodbath. "the french never evenhad a chance. taken by surprise, they were victims of a massacre." when the firing stopped, 10 to 12 frenchmenwere dead -- washington gave various accounts
of how many died -- and many more were wounded,including joseph coulon de jumonville, the commanding officer; the british suffered onlyone casualty. so surround these guys, they're making breakfast, there's no defense, he'snot authorized to attack them, and he guns them down. it's a war crime even by the standardsof the time. while we donâ€™t know, of course, what wasgoing on through the deputy commander's head at the time, a letter he wrote to his youngerbrother suggests that he was likely entranced by the fighting. washington said, "i heardbullets whistle and believe me there was something charming in the sound." what happened next has been the subject ofmuch debate amongst historians due to the
conflicting accounts of the events. a private in the virginia regiment relatedin a sworn statement what he had heard from soldiers who were present at the event. accordingto this version of the story, the half king, the indian leader, personally executed thefrench commander with a hatchet, while the latter was attempting to explain the purposeof his mission to washington after his remaining men were captured. "we're on a diplomaticmission from alderaan." bludgeoned, beheaded, slaughtered with a giant -- well, it's a miniaxe. that is pretty horrendous. a french soldier who managed to escape thecarnage also claimed he saw washington and jumonville together but didnâ€™t know whathappened afterwards because he fled the scene.
to murder the captured leader of a force youwerenâ€™t even allowed to attack or to allow that murder under your watch, not good, notgood at all. in the half king's account, it was the britishwho killed the captured french commander, not him, and in his journal, washington statedthat the indian leader wasnâ€™t responsible for the death of jumonville. one possibilityand i put this out there, this is in accordance with all the facts, one possibility is thatwhen washington realized that he'd attacked the diplomatic mission then he realized thathe was going to need to kill the witnesses or kill the head. so he could have just killedthis guy because he had made such a terrible mistake and it would be impossible to coverup if he didnâ€™t kill the guy so like a hit.
so regardless of who committed the murder,when the battle, which was really a massacre, was over, washington read the papers he foundon jumonville's body and discovered that the french officer was leading a diplomatic mission,not a war party, and was sent to do exactly what george volunteered to do six months earlierwhich was to go and parlay about the land. not only did washington ignore his ordersto remain on the defensive, but he initiated a hostile act against a peaceful party. sothis is a man, if you remember from the beginning, who was praised for the virtues of his character,how would he react to such a catastrophic mistake? this was a war starting event, awar which everyone was driving to avoid. he wrote to the virginia governor that jumonvilleand his men were spies of the worst sort and
that the arrested frenchmen he was sendingback ought to be hanged. washington even cautioned dinwiddie not to listen to the prisoners'stories: "i doubt not but they will endeavor to amuse your honor with many smooth storiesas they did me." so he had attacked against orders a peacefuldiplomatic group and he sent prisoners back and he said that they ought to be hanged.this is not the actions of an honorable man. i'm sure i donâ€™t need to tell you. he wantedthe witnesses killed and said, "oh, they lie about everything." one member of jumonville'sparty escaped the ambush, and washington, that of course expecting a french retaliation,abandoned his original goal and built a defensive installation that he called fort necessity.
the remainder of the volunteer army, rememberthere was a guy having back to get more volunteers joined him in june, and washington learnedthat the previous commander had died after falling from his horse. at the age of 22,the lieutenant colonel was now commanding an army. however, when an independent unitcomprised of about 100 professional british soldiers arrived in fort necessity, washingtonhad to settle a dispute over his authority before taking charge of the virginia regiment. under british law at the time, soldiers commissionedby the british crown outranked all colonial officers. like lawrence washington, jamesmackay, the veteran commander of the british unit, held a royal captain's commission, andso he expected to take charge of the army
and that's what the law supported at the time. of course, the ambitious washington wasnâ€™tabout to let that happen: "anxious and threatened, he railed in a message to dinwiddie aboutthe interloper's wish to take command of his men, and he claimed that captain mackay'spresence was impeding the operations of the virginia regiment." even though he had served in the british armysince washington was about five years old, mackay agreed to leave the young and inexperiencedvirginian in charge, establishing his unit outside of fort necessity. the french, commanded by jumonville's brother,arrived in early july, yearning for revenge
after encountering the scalped and unburiedbodies that washington had left behind. and this is important too. so he basically murderedthese guys and allowed the indians to scout them and didnâ€™t even bother burying thebodies. that is not again an honorable warrior. outnumbering the british approximately twoto one, it was a brief and one-sided battle. so the french took down the british. now,washington suffered a pretty humiliating defeat because the location he had chosen for fortnecessity was surrounded by hills and woods. of course, if you're building a fort, youdonâ€™t want hills and woods around you because then you're trapped inside. you need flatland around you. this is not brain surgery. this is d&d 101. sorry, i shouldnâ€™t laugh.
this could be, of course, why the britishcommanders said, "okay, you guys stay in the fort and we'll camp outside the fort and thatway when the french come, you guys will all get killed and then i'll take charge." soabout 700 frenchmen surrounded the fort, and they had height advantage and tree cover.they just poured bullets into the fort, killing a large number of them and the french sufferedonly three casualties, and they grievously wounded many more. it was only a fear of possible enemy reinforcementsthat kept the french from killing every last man inside the fort. george washington hadnot only surrendered. he didnâ€™t only just surrendered to the french but he signed anincriminating confession that he was responsible
for the assassination of jumonville. in exchange,he was permitted to march back to virginia with his men. again, i donâ€™t mean to praisethe french too much but that's fairly civilized. i mean if you caught the guy who murderedyour brother, at least that's what you believe, would you say sign a confession and i'll letyou go? no. let's just say there was an honor imbalance in the conflict. so this is notgood. when he returned home, washington focusedall of his attention on damage control. in a triumphant tone, he wrote embellished accountsof what actually happened. he said, "ah, my army killed over 300 french soldiers," whichwas a hundred times the actual number. and after suffering a valiant defeat against theoverwhelming enemy numbers, he marched home
with drums beating and his colors flying. he did not admit any errors on his behalfwhatsoever. he blamed his military loss on insufficient supplies a callow soldiery. notthat great to blame your troops when you chose the location of the fort. washington's written admission of jumonville'smurder seriously threatened the reputation he had built, and so he dedicated most ofhis time to managing the public's reaction. the man, who, as legend goes, couldnâ€™t tella lie, took advantage of the fact that his translator was kept hostage by the french,never to return to virginia, and used him as a scapegoat. so he'd signed the confessionthat he had murdered jumonville.
washington portrayed his translator as a dutchman,little acquainted with the english tongue, who had translated the french l'assasinatdu sr. de jumonville to mean "death" or "loss" of jumonville, not that i assassinated him,just that he died. the poor washington had no idea he was signing a confession of murder.that's what he said, "i didnâ€™t know. how was i to know that the word assasinat hadanything to do with assassination?" in case anyone doubted this shaky excuse, he attackedhis translator's integrity as well, implying a deliberate mistranslation. "it wasnâ€™tmy fault. i didnâ€™t kill the guy. i signed a confession that i did but it was a translationproblem. and the guy lied to me." so much for "i cannot tell a lie."
while washington was busy trying to clearhis name, france and great britain were gearing for war. as one british politician put it,"the volley fired by a young virginian in the backwoods of america set the world onfire." this is why it is very important to follow orders in the military of the timebecause if you go against your orders and start fighting, you can end up doing justthis which is starting a giant war. george washington's actions were the sparkthat eventually lit the fire of an anglo-french war that became known as the seven years'war. everybody or at least those who study history remember the name of the serbian anarchistwho rolled the bomb under the king's carriage and started world war i.
back in virginia, governor dinwiddie brokeup washington's regiment into several companies and attempted to demote the ambitious youthto a rank of captain. only in the military could you go against or to start a war andresult only in a demotion. washington quickly resigned to avoid the humiliating consequencesof his grave failures, claiming that his decision was due to the call of honor. in private,however, he was extremely bitter. "my commission was taken away from me," he raged in a letterto augustine jr., his older brother. when the british dispatched general edwardbraddock to america, washington, who had returned to the life of a planter, saw an opportunityto obtain the royal commission he had so zealously pursued. to reach and surpass the social standingof his brother, he had to become a british
army officer. upon learning that general braddock couldcommission only captains -- a rank he wasnâ€™t willing to accept -- the former lieutenantcolonel instead opted to become an unpaid and unranked assistant to the seasoned veteran. washington intended to learn everything hecould from the british general, even copying braddock's orders in a notebook so he couldemulate him in the future. as an assistant, he observed that his commander was a man whosegood and bad qualities were intimately blended, yet the general failed to disguise weaknessessuch as his volatile temper and a blunt and often rude manner of speaking.
historian john ferling commented on why georgewas so intent on studying and emulating braddock's character: "as always, washington sought tohide what he thought were his own shortcomings -- his lack of education, a volcanic temper,and vaulting ambition -- and to exhibit what others would see as virtues, including dedication,industry and fairness. though his service under braddock was very brief, washingtonlearned a great deal from his superior. in late april 1755, the british general andhis troops finally went on the move, following the path washington's regiments had takenduring the disastrous campaign one year earlier. right after the british forces crossed themonongahela river in ohio, their vanguard stumbled upon a french army that was attemptingto set up an ambush. both sides were surprised
as the french werenâ€™t expecting the britishto arrive so early, and braddock was preparing for a siege, not a battle. severely outnumbered and outgunned, the frenchdid the sensible thing. they abandoned the european style of fighting and rushed intothe nearby woods. using the trees as cover, they poured a merciless fire into the ranksof the british. the ranks of braddock's professional armyquickly crumbled before the guerilla tactics of the enemy: "all pretense of disciplineand orderly resistance gave way to terror within the anglo-american army." braddock made a fatal mistake by issuing a"foolish yet stern order that none of the
troops should protect themselves behind trees."war is a very frustrating thing to read about. so you come across these french, they meltinto the woods, and start shooting at you from under the cover of the trees. you'rebeing cut down mercilessly because your soldiers were hold in ranks in european style of fighting.and what do you do? you say you can't behind trees. so without cover, the british soldierswere gunned down by the hundreds. i'm sure that some of his descendants ended up sendingover british troops into the withering fire of world war i trench warfare. washingtonfound himself in the middle of on the bloodiest battles he would ever see. when all of braddock's aides got killed orinjured, the young virginian alone delivered
the general's orders to all soldiers on thebattlefield, and after the british commander was shot by the enemy, washington assistedin carrying the mortally wounded body away from the carnage. so washington was the onewho told the soldiers being gunned down for the french people hiding behind trees donâ€™thide behind trees. good job, george. the british not only lost the battle but alsoa third of their 1,300 soldiers. the staggering death toll was contrasted by only 23 casualtiessuffered by the french and indian forces. so there is that. washington was amongst the roughly 300 menwho escaped the blood-soaked battlefield unscathed. in a letter to one of his younger brothers,he noted: "by the all powerful dispensations
of providence, i have been protected beyondall human probability and expectation for i had four bullets through my coat and twohorses shot under me yet although death was leveling my companions on every side of me,i alone escaped unhurt." and this is interesting. you see this in militaryhistory quite consistently that good luck saves a few people but because a lot of peoplebelieve that god intervened in the battlefield and saved or let people die according to hisdivine plan, if you survived a bloody massacre, bullets whizzing by you and napoleon usedto ride at the front of his troops and emerged unscathed, you will believe to have god onyour side and then you got to kind of divine uplift in your reputation where, of course,it was blind chance that he didnâ€™t die but
enough blind chance equals god is on yourside, which is a little tough to argue against. washington's bravery during the battle broughthim back into the public eye. about a month after the tragic events took place, the storyof his miraculous survival even became a part of a sermon preached by the future fourthpresident of princeton university. this kind of rewriting of history in the military contextis always essential, the degree to which massacres have to be turned into glorious tales of survival,is because you need to recruit new soldiers and the new soldiers donâ€™t want to fightfor people who say, "don't hide behind trees," when guys are shooting at you from behindtrees. they donâ€™t want to go out and get slaughtered and so they always have to rewrite.getting the truth about military history is
almost an impossible task. the crushing british defeat also served tobolster washington's damaged reputation. if the veteran braddock lost in such a spectacularmanner, then washington's defeat at fort necessity was an inevitability. the french are thatgood apparently. when he returned to virginia, washington wasshowered with praise for his bravery. dinwiddie promoted him to the rank of colonel and puthim in charge of a 1,200-man army. despite yearning for the promotion, he didnâ€™t wantto appear to solicit the command. instead, the position of commander had to be pressedupon him by the general voice of the country. this pantomime of the man who takes chargeunwillingly against his better instincts because
of the general clamor of blah, blah, blah. he was pretty inexperienced as a militaryman but his skill in politics was pretty evident. even at the age of 23, washington knew howto cloak his bottomless ambition for power in the voice of the country. the people needme. he was already drawing upon the knowledge he had acquired through observing generalbraddock, and throughout his life, he successfully use the same strategy over and over again. soon after reassuming command, washington,yet again, started pursuing the ever elusive royal commission, but his focused effortsfailed to yield a satisfactory result despite dinwiddie's assistance and a personal meetingwith the british commander-in-chief for all
troops in america. furthermore, in the span of one and one halfyears, a third of washington's men died fighting a guerilla war with local indians: "washingtonwas unable to point to the least success in this campaign." to make matters worse, hewas undermining the support of civilians with his habit of confiscating goods. the complained:"to such a pitch has the insolence of these people arrived that some are threatening toblow out my brains." so not popular with the locals. they really wanted to kill this guywho kept stealing their food and goods and money and livestock and doing god knows whatto their win. as was typical of washington, he never accepteda single shred of responsibility for the failures
of his regiment and instead endlessly blamedvirginia politicians. this eventually resulted in a falling out with governor dinwiddie. "the steady drumbeat of faultfinding thatpoured from washington's pen would have irritated anyone. that the carping came from a youngofficer who had yet to achieve his first success on the battlefield was bad enough, but itwas made even worse as the governor knew that he was doing all that was politically andmilitarily feasible." dinwiddie also became infuriated when he learnedthat washington was going behind his back to complain to other influential politiciansin virginia. if you have a patron, do not do an end run. washington also learned thatthe governor and other assemblymen regarded
him as deceitful and suspected him of hidingthe misconduct of some of his officers. however, when the issue of washington's failureswas raised in virginia's only newspaper, the relationship between the governor and thecolonel escalated to a boiling point. dinwiddie flatly told washington that he was not justunmannerly but an ingrate, and these words carried significant weight in the 18th century. "that i have foibles and perhaps many of them,i shall not deny," replied the enraged washington. "i should esteem myself, as the world alsowould, vain and empty, were i to arrogate perfection." then he continued with a morepassive aggressive tone: "i conceive it would be more generous to charge me with my faults,and let me stand or fall, according to evidence,
than to stigmatize me behind my back." inother words, complaining to be directly is bad. i'm going to accuse you of stigmatizingme behind my back even though i've been going around badmouthing you to other politicians. this conversation was held in private butwashington -- partly out of spite -- planned to publicly rebut the governor to clear hisname. however, augustine jr., his older brother, persuaded him to do nothing of the sort. themedia storm gradually blew over, yet the relationship between dinwiddie and washington remainedstrained. a british historian summarized his views onthe young commander: "there is something unlikable about the george washington of 1753-1758.he seems a trifle raw and strident, too much
on his dignity, too ready to complain, toonakedly concerned with promotion." that's a british historian. how about significantportions of his men died at a useless campaign against the indians? despite his cantankerous behavior and totallack of military success, the young colonel kept his position because the local politiciansfeared that this successor, who was a man from north carolina, was beyond their control. in december 1757, the british finally decidedto break the stalemate on the american colonial front and tasked brigadier general john forbeswith capturing the much contested ohio country. forbes had two choices on how to reach fortduquesne, france's principal defensive installation
in ohio, which general braddock had failedto conquer. he could either use the road his predecessor had created or carve a new onestraight west from pennsylvania. for strategic purposes, he chose the latter,as cutting a new road would require him to cross less major rivers, while also allowinghim to use the heavily populated eastern pennsylvania for resupplies. an army marches on its belly,as the old statement, and an army is only as good as its supply chain. this, of course,is one of the reasons why the americans had significant advantage against the british.the british had to get new soldiers in some ways by crossing them over the atlantic thousandsof miles on boats whereas the supply chain for the rebels were much shorter so therewas that advantage. given what happened to
braddock at the monongahela river, avoidingthe dangers of the existing road was a foremost concern. in an attempt to change the general's decision,washington immediately launched an insistent lobbying campaign on behalf of himself andother virginia businessmen. if braddock's road remained the only connection to ohio,it would raise the value of the land along the road and ensure a postwar economic boomfor virginians. this you'll see happening over and over again that somebody who ownsa huge amount of land -- in this case, washington -- often will push for military decisionsthat enhanced the value of his land, and that's pretty significant. we'll also see how lateron you could really argue that washington's
land grid or his grid to increase the valueof his land was responsible for the formation of the communist dictatorship in russia in1970. well, we'll see whether we can make that case. tenuous though it may be, it'sa reasonable case to make. so that's what he wanted to do and he wantedto make sure that the military decisions would continue to enhance the value of his land. however, the british general saw through thecolonel's intentions: "like dinwiddie before him, forbes grew to question washington'sintegrity, even his suitability for leading an army." washington, forbes concluded, puthis "attachment to his province," his land, "before the good of the army."
when the general stuck to his decision, georgewashington despaired in private: "all is lost! all is lost by heavens! our enterprise ruined."oh, you know, you definitely want a lack of hysteria in your military leaders. colonel washington participated in only onemilitary action during forbes' campaign, the one that brought him even more shame. afterthe french sabotaged the british supply post, the general ordered several hundred virginiansto pursue the attackers. he later sent out even more virginians as reinforcements forthe first group. can i also mention here, the french were actuallypretty intelligent in their way of fighting: sabotaging supply posts, take to the trees,shoot down -- they ditched one into this medieval
style open confrontation where everyone marchesat each other. it's the spy way of fighting rather than the full frontal assault way offighting. and because washington was hungering for this full frontal assault style of fightingall the time, it was tough for washington to win against these guys. several hundred virginians were supposed topursue those who had sabotaged the british supply post. he later sent out even more virginiansas reinforcements for the first group. washington was in charge of one of the detachments-- there are conflicting accounts on which one he commanded -- and when his forces stumbledupon the other virginian group, friendly fire. so washington is in charge of one of the virginiangroups in pursuit of the french. he stumbles
across another virginian group. both sidesopen fire on each other amidst the confusion, and forty men were either killed or wounded.so who knows who started it? there's no way to know for sure although we generally cansay it's probably the opposite of what washington says. friendly fire, friendly forces, fortymen killed or wounded in this encounter. there are only two accounts of what happenedduring the incident. washington after thirty years of silence blamed the commander of theother group and credited himself for swiftly ending the carnage. one of his trusted offices,on the other hand, claims that the colonel was "responsible not just for the calamitybut for doing next to nothing to stop the bloodshed." so given washington's track recordwhen it comes to incompetence, taking responsibility
and outright lying, it's not impossible todecide which account is more believable. one of his trusted officers said basically washingtonopened fire on men from the same army and then did almost nothing to stop the bloodshed.so that's not good. despite the virginian blood blunder, forbes'campaign was successful and ended without any major engagements. the french simply abandonedfor fort duquesne before the general reached it. when george washington returned home afterthe campaign was over, in the eyes of the general public, he was considered a war hero.by the age of 27, he had climbed to the rank of a colonel and participated in a major waragainst france. although he never got the
royal commission he so desperately desired,his social status and influence now fostered past those of his deceased half-brother lawrence. as the historian ferling noted: "not eventhe fairfaxes were as exalted as colonel washington. the dizzying arc of his ascent was truly astonishing.it had to have exceeded his wildest dreams." all right, so let's go from the head to theheart or the bullets to the heart. while colonel george washington's social statuswas elevated beyond his wildest dreams, he wasn't successful on the romantic front. hisfirst and perhaps only love was unrequited. when he was about 16, his friend george williamfairfax, the son of colonel fairfax, married sally cary, a beautiful and rich 18-year-oldgirl who was a member of the virginia aristocracy.
it's not clear when the young washington developedfeelings for his friend's wife, but shortly before the disastrous braddock campaign, hebegan exchanging flirtatious letters with her. anxious to avoid a scandal, sally kepther distance but didn't outright reject his love either: "the coquettish sally seemedto be feeding his amorous fantasies while simultaneously holding him rigidly at arm'slength." because men dropped like flies, you know having one on deck, having one waitingin the wings, one on the back burner, not the most ridiculous sexual survival strategy. by 1758, with his military service nearingits end, the 25-year-old washington began looking for a wife. he met martha custis,a single mother of two children and one of
the wealthiest widows in virginia. ka-ching!and after spending less than a day together, the two were engaged to be married. let'shave our money get married, and you and i can attend as ring bearers. general forbeshas yet to capture fort duquesne, so the ceremony was postponed until the following year. so he obviously wanted to have an affair withhis friend's wife -- not the most honorable thing in the world. and then he met a richwoman and it's like john kerry style. it's like, "i love your money -- you, you. moneyhas nothing to do with it." several months after he got engaged on theeve of his wedding ceremony, washington, referring to himself as a "votary to love," wrote sallya letter in which he openly confessed his
feelings to her. his advances, however, weren'treciprocated, so he married martha in january 17509. right before he gets married, he'slike, "hey, will you marry me, wife of friend?" and she's like, "no." "fine. i'll marry martha."uh, it's a paying the true love. washington was indeed a votary for sally.she remained his lifelong love, which is evidenced by a letter he sent her a year before hisdeath: "so many important events have occurred. none of which, however, nor all of them together,have been able to eradicate from my mind the recollection of those happy moments, the happiestof my life, which i have enjoyed in your company." and there is something very sad about thatwhen somebody towards the end of his life, a life of great abbott success looks backand sees a few stars in the black night of
his interstellar ambition a few stars of light,which remained shreds of happiness from his youth. it's very tragic and very instructiveabout where you should put your energies in life. so of course, mary, the harridan of a mother,incessantly complained about being abandoned by her son. but then she also boycotted hiswedding and, according to one of martha's biographers, may not have met the bride untilthe year after the wedding. very little is known about washington's relationshipwith his wife and, of course, there is more speculation about that. martha purposely burnedher correspondence with george, leaving only three letters behind. we never know what wasin them. there are a few things we can guess
at which we'll get to in a bit. washington maintained that the basis of hismarriage was friendship as opposed to enamored love. however, according to some scholars,washington's relationship with martha is best described as a business partnership. as one editor of george washington's notespoints out, "with his marriage, washington was now in control of one of virginia's largestand most profitable estates, including property in six counties amounting to nearly 8,000acres, slaves valued at 9,000 pounds virginia currency, and accounts current and other liquidassets in england of about 10,000 pounds sterling. so that's a lot. i mean this is a time whena skilled tradesman would own like 20 bucks
a year. in a rhetorical question, john adams alsoremarked: "would washington have ever been commander of the revolutionary army or presidentof the united states, if he had not married the rich widow of mr. custis?" adding to the image of a loveless marriageis the fact that george never had any children with martha. some have speculated that abouta small pox in his youth may have left him sterile, but no one really knows why the fatherof the united states never fathered any children of his own. the return to civilian life and the acquisitionof enormous wealth didn't put an end to washington's
ambition. indeed, his insatiable lust forland didn't leave him until his dying breath. instead of resting on his laurels, he decidedto secure even more power and influence by becoming a member of virginia's legislativeassembly, the house of burgesses. in 1758, while still a military officer, he succeededin doing so and thus began his political career. this hunger for power is insatiable in certainpeople. there is no external solution to the problem of insecurity. the more we try togather laurels to fill the hole in our hearts, the more it feeds the hole in our heart. washington, of course, later in his life wouldloudly proclaim repeatedly that he wasn't a politician, but he did spend 16 years asa member of virginia's legislative assembly
so he doth protest too much, methinks. to win the 1758 election, washington engagedin the popular, if technically illegal, custom of intoxicating local voters. the alcoholhe purchased added up to a little over 39 pounds, which represented nearly two years'income for a skilled tradesman. so he got voters drunk in order to get them to votefor him. now, a very, very brief aside here becausewe're going to get to this with the issue of slavery. to what degree do we judge washingtonby the standards of his time versus our time and so on? well, he wasn't into animal rights,and he didn't care about global warming. i get all that. but there are a couple of thingsto remember in this. number one, we can reasonably
compare washington to the high standards ofhis time. so when it comes to slavery, there was a significantabolitionistic movement, three percent of people even in the south in the mid 18th centurywere abolitionists, and there was a strong abolitionistic movement that was going on.at the time he was a christian and believed that, of course, the slaves had souls andso on. and so being against slavery and he lived in a country where a significant portionof the states did not allow slavery and set slaves free, which we'll get to later particularlyphiladelphia, if you were a slave in philadelphia for six months, you were automatically freed.and so there was a strong anti-slavery movement at the time, which he was perfectly awareof.
so we can judge him by those standards. wecan also judge a man by the standards that he himself proposes and puts forward. so ifthe man talks about honor, integrity, honesty and so on, self-responsibility, then doeshe follow his own standards from that standpoint? so we can't just look at everything negativethat washington did and say, "but we can't judge him by the standards of our time." actually,he did things negative judging by the standards of his own time, and judging by the standardsthat he loudly proclaimed in public. so yes, we can give him a few gold star shy of ana based upon those standards. why was washington so eager to acquire politicalpower? well, political power led the land. when virginian politicians decided to raisean army to secure the ohio country back in
1754, governor dinwiddie -- yes, i'm not makingfun of that name, i'm quite proud of myself -- promised 200,000 acres of bounty land thatwould be divided between men who enlisted. so dinwiddie had, of course, billions of acresof land pretty much, and he was willing to give some of those land to soldiers in orderto make sure that the french didn't take his land. so officers were not entitled to anyof the 200,000 acres of land because they already had crazy benefits already. as a land speculator, george washington hopedto use his political power to acquire a portion of those 200,000 acres. "following his military service, washington'spursuit of western lands became a driving
force in his conduct as an assemblyman." he'sa politician. "he not only hoped to secure title to some of the lush land in the newlywon ohio country, but he fixated on acquiring a share of the bounty lands that had beenpromised to virginia's soldiers." again, this is reprehensible. the soldiers joined thearmy partly in order to get the land that was promised to them, which was not promisedto the officers, but george washington hoped to bypass that and get the land reserved forthe soldiers who did most of the fighting, which he was never supposed to get his handson. after the seven years' war ended and the virginianswere allowed to settle in ohio, it was finally time to allocate the land dinwiddie had promised.george played a key role in the process. washington
understood the reality of early american politicsquite well, and for some time he had been covertly active to ensure that the lands weremade available at the earliest possible moment, that the officers received the lion's shareof the bounty lands, that the lands went to those who had served in the fort necessitycampaign which would reduce the pool of veterans leaving more land for each man, and that hehad a hand in determining the location of the lands that were ultimately allocated. so he's just working and working and workingto grab land from the soldiers. horrendous. it's the modern equivalent of stealing thepensions of soldiers and getting all that money for yourself and leaving them with virtuallynothing.
conspiring with his officers, washington managedto allocate seven eighths of the bounty land to just 18 people just. let that sink intoyour mind. this is supposed to be going out to i don't know how many thousands of soldiers.he managed to allocate seven eighths of the 200,000 acres of bounty land to just 18 people. furthermore, upon visiting their land, severalsoldiers discovered that the former commander, who had insisted that all tracks were of similarquality, was lying all along. their land was in fact worthless. stealing from your ownsoldiers. responding to mounting complaints, washington'sofficers tried to assure both veterans and authorities of their commander's disinterestedconduct and his intention to administer impartial
justice in how the tracts were distributed.however, their opinion would soon change after discovering that washington had double-crossedthem as well by securing the cream of the country for himself. so his officers are saying,"no, no, no, he's doing the right thing. he's being impartial." and then they go and seetheir land and it's crap, and he's kept it for himself. so this 39-pound get-them-drunk election campaignturned out to be a pretty good investment for the disingenuous and greedy washington.the bounty lands he acquired more than doubled his already large property holdings yet thisstill wasn't enough for him. as one biographer pointed out: "not only did washington exploithis position to pin down prime real estate
for himself, but he brought up rights surreptitiouslyfrom needy veterans to enlarge his holdings." the years george washington spent as an assemblymanrevealed a remarkably corrupt man, which is particularly interesting given that he wouldsoon be immortalized for his astonishing virtue. while washington was scheming to secure thebest bounty land for himself, tensions between great britain and its colonial states startedto escalate. to fight the seven years' war, the crown had accumulated a huge debt andto pay it off, british politicians in an unprecedented move started to impose various taxes on theamerican colonies. and this is the cycle you see over and over in history. war breeds debt;debt breeds taxation; taxation breeds rebellion; rebellion breeds war, breeds debt, breedstaxation, breeds rebellion. you get the cycle.
while the sugar act of 1764 didn't affectmany people, the stamp act that was imposed in the following year was met with strongopposition. washington, like many of his contemporaries, viewed this unconstitutional method of taxationas a direful attack upon american liberties. however, preoccupied with his plantations,he didn't actively participate in the political debates over the crown's encroaching taxation. however, towards the end of the 1760s andamidst increasing demonstrations, boycotts, and a series of newspaper articles furiouslydenouncing taxation, washington erupted with fiery rhetoric decrying the policies of ourlordly masters in great britain as a grave threat to the liberty which we have derivedfrom our ancestors. he was also, among the
first if not the first, to speak of goingto war in defense of so valuable a blessing of liberty. so let's see if you can figure out georgewashington by now. what prompted his sudden change? hmm, let's figure it out. so by now, george washington was heavily indebt, partly because of britain's mercantilist policies towards american tobacco planterslike himself. so you can well put links in below and all the sources, of course, to thepresentation will be below. britain's mercantilist policies, they basicallywanted lots of raw materials to come in to england. england then would apply factorylabor to produce them into finished goods
and export them. so there was a lot of barriersto trade, a lot of taxes designed to manipulate trade, which was harmful to the colonistswho generally were producing raw materials. so furthermore, british politicians had repeatedlyhindered his attempts to acquire portions of the ohio country bounty land so that thepoliticians were in the way of his financial and land interests. so suddenly war for libertybecomes... anyway. the infamous tea act of 1773 didn't even registeron george washington's radar because he was more concerned with a change in british policywith regard to the bounty lands that were promised to soldiers who participated in theseven years' war. under the new terms, only british regulars could claim the bounty whichmeant that washington stood to lose 10,000
acres. remember he took all that land forhimself away from his own soldiers. but only british regulars could claim the bounty which,of course, george washington wasn't, so he stood to lose 10,000 acres if the britishremained in control of the colonies. to make matters worse, in 1774, washingtonlearned the parliament, in an effort to abolish virginia land speculation, had passed an actthat gave the province of quebec all the land north of the ohio river. just think of howsmoking in church and poutine could have spread out of quebec. he now not only worried abouthis existing claims, but he feared that his chances for further speculation within theohio country would be limited. the enraged washington was now prepared touse force. as historian john ferling noted:
"bitter that his pocket had been picked bythe revocation of his bounty land claims and other western actions taken in far away london,washington yearned to exert his free will and influence in quest of his goals." in may 1775, when washington learned aboutthe battles of lexington and concord, which marked the beginning of the american revolutionarywar, he lamented that "the once happy and peaceful planes of america are either to bedrenched with blood or inhabited by slaves." it's a bit of a false dichotomy but he continued:"sad alternative but can a virtuous man hesitate in his choice? freedom. washington's choice, of course, was alreadyclear. in june 1775, the continental congress
unanimously elected him as commander-in-chiefof the continental army. so washington, the man who had foolishly triggeredthe war that was at the root of the current conflict over taxation, was now in chargeof an even larger army. many politicians viewed him as "modest andvirtuous," as well as "amiable, generous and brave." historian peter henriques writes:"it was his character rather than his military knowledge or experience that made him theperfect choice to lead america's new army." as one delegate put it, washington "removesall jealousies, and that is the main point." two days after accepting the position of commander-in-chief,washington wrote his wife: "you may believe me my dear patcy, when i assure you in themost solemn manner that so far from seeking
disappointment, i have used every endeavorin my power to avoid it, not only from my unwillingness to part with you and the family,but from a consciousness of its being a trust too great for my capacity. but, as it hasbeen a kind of destiny that has thrown me upon this service. i shall hope that my understandingof it is designed to answer some good purpose. it was utterly out of my power to refuse thisappointment without exposing my character to such censures as would have reflected dishonorupon myself and given pain to my friends. this i am sure could not and ought not tobe pleasing to you, and must have lessened me considerably in my own esteem. i shallrely, therefore, confidently on that providence which has heretofore preserved and been bountifulto me, not doubting but that i shall return
safe to you in the fall. i shall feel no painfrom the toil or the danger of the campaign." forehead permanently stapled to back of hand. several years later, he would also proclaim:"i did not solicit the command but accepted it after much entreaty..." was he playinghard to get? i would take washington's words at face value. do we know him by now? giventhe zeal for war that he displayed when fighting against france, it's hard to believe he hadabandoned his quest for glory completely. his actions, not quite in line with his words.even though he attended the second continental congress as a civilian delegate, washington,who was no stranger to theater and theatrics, chose to wear his military uniform. so that'san interesting decision given his supposed
apprehension and avoidance of serving in thearmy. it's like a shapely woman in a low-cut dress decrying male attention. he was the only delegate to attend both thefirst and the second congresses in full military dress. john adams highlighted this fact bystating: "colonel washington appears at congress in his uniform and, by his great experienceand abilities in men in military matters, is of much service to us." let's just sayhe may have been a bit ambivalent about that. additionally -- and we talked about this earlier-- washington was now in his 40s, an age at which a significant number of men in his familyhad died. so there were good reasons for him to believe that his end was nigh. perhapsthis war was his last opportunity to die an
honorable death on the battlefield, a desirehe expressed in his youth -- oh, the number of wars fought by men who don't like theirwives. he certainly understood that he wasn't qualifiedto lead a large army. as one delegate later recalled, a tearful washington on the nightof his appointment had made a grim prediction, "from the day i enter upon the command ofthe american armies, i date my fall and the ruin of my reputation." a lack of knowledgeand experience, however, never got in the way of recent visions in the past, and itwasnâ€™t about to happen now. whatever the case may be, actions speak louderthan words, and george washington would soon fight tooth and nail to keep his positionas commander-in-chief.
the revolutionary war started out pretty wellfor george washington. in march 1776, he liberated boston in a relatively bloodless victory afterallowing the british who had threatened to raze the city to withdraw. you'll notice apattern that george washington seems to do very well when the other army is on its wayout of the conflict. washington took sole credit for the successeven though it was his officers who persuaded him to avoid attacking directly, and to fortifya series of low hills that overlooked boston harbor instead. he was always rushing forthis upfront confrontation. furthermore, since the british commander-in-chief general williamhowe had already decided to abandon the city, the decision to leave without fighting wasn'tparticularly difficult.
so a tree falls down and i claim that i pushedit over. describing the siege of boston in a letterto his brother, washington emphasized the difficulty of his accomplishment: "i believei may, with great truth affirm, that no man perhaps since the first institution of armiesever commanded one under more difficult circumstances than i have done." maybe general custer. ican think of a few. but setting up a siege and then having the british army retreat,i know army man but that does not seem like... i go into the ring with muhammad ali in hisprime. mohammed ali has an aneurism, and i dance around saying, "i am now the greatest."muhammad ali is great. "i'm so fast. last night i turned off the -- i was in bed beforeit was dark. i'm so fast. i swing at you and
i miss you from pneumonia, from the breeze. george washington soared to majestic heightswith the liberation of boston. however, his first real battle, the largest of the entirewar, was about to prove just how bad of a decision it was to put an inexperienced commanderwho had nothing but failures in his resume in charge of a large army. following the victory in boston, general washingtonmoved his army to new york city and took a defensive position in anticipation of a britishattack. the uncharacteristically sanguine and self-assured washington arrived in manhattaneager for the showdown battle that had been denied during the siege of boston. as ferlingnoted: "the key to unlocking the door to the
hall of heroes," he believed, "was throughscoring a decisive triumph in a climactic and epic battlefield confrontation," ragnarokof the new world. now, new york was a great fortress at thetime. no conceivable way that any sane british commander would pour out of a secure fortressto attack a surrounding army. that just makes no sense at all. general howe arrived in august and crushedwashington's defenses in long island within a single day. aside from allowing his armyto be outflanked and attack from behind, washington committed one grave tactical mistake. he haddivided his army in the face of a superior foe, a violation of the cardinal maxim ofwarfare. his decision assured that his army
would be outnumbered no matter where howechose to fight. taking advantage of the bad weather that hadincapacitated the royal navy, washington's forces crossed the east river and fled towhat is now brooklyn. he had seemingly abandoned his hope of an epic battlefield confrontation,and instead suggested to congress that it would be best for the continental army towithdraw. after receiving permission to abandon new york city, he managed to escape the clutchesof howe for the second time one day to crush his defenses. now, upon the continental army's retreat,a fire erupted and destroyed a quarter of new york city. british officials managed toarrest 14 arsonists, and three others were
apprehended by civilians. now, washingtonhad asked congress for permission to burn new york city to the ground, but his wishwas categorically denied, a decision that enraged him. ferling writes: "it stretchescredulity to believe that it was accidental or coincidental that 17 firebugs turned outon the same night." so george washington says, "i want to burndown new york city." and congress says, "don't you dare." and then all these arsonists startedsetting fire to new york city. not the last time or the first time that he disobeyed directorders. historians have often struggled to explainwashington's perplexing behavior after the loss of new york city. scholars analyzinghis personality from a psychological standpoint
have reached the following conclusion abouthis character. "making a distinction between benign or normalnarcissism and neurotic or malignant narcissism, it appears that the young washington squarelyfits the former category. more specifically the young washington had a mirror hungry personality,one that requires a continuous stream of admiration to shore up his grandiose self." how many podcasts do i have? uh, topic foranother time. however, given the events that followed washington'sdefeat, it's hard to see how his narcissism wasn't malignant, if not downright suicidal. despite telling congress that he would engagein guerrilla warfare and evasive maneuvering,
washington chose to remain on manhattan island.in preparation of a giant showdown, he deployed his army in harlem heights. first you takemanhattan, then berlin. i think that's how it goes. so lying to congress --well, longtradition. and guerilla tactics, all of that, that's what i'm going to do. but then he didn'tdo anything of the kind. john ferling again writes: "washington's defendershave maintained that congressional pressure led him to remain in this snare, and thatis the notion he appears to have promoted. in fact, there is no evidence that congressordered washington to defend manhattan, and if it had ever mandated such a course, itcertainly did not do so following the debacle on long island. nor did washington's generalslead him astray. by a majority of more than
three to one, they had sanctioned abandoningnew york a full month prior to house landing. staying in harlem heights was washington'sidea, and he said as much late in september when he announced unequivocally that he wouldnot retreat from manhattan." washington may have learned that politiciansin philadelphia were extremely critical of his failures, which would give him a reasonto make a stand against the british and clear his name through a victory on the battlefield.however, this still isn't enough to explain why he would choose to fight how despite hisopinion that if he stayed on manhattan island, the enemy would "cut this army in pieces." ferling offers another perspective: "washington'spotentially shocking blunder may also have
arisen from his hallmark inclination for battle,the very state of mind that had led him to make his injudicious stand at fort necessityyears before, and repeatedly drove him to propose assailing his heavily fortified enemyin boston. for 15 long months, he had waited impatiently for a great confrontation withthe enemy. his blood was up and he wanted to avenge the humiliation of long island.he hungered for the moment of truth. the best predictor of future behavior is relevantpast behavior and all the way back to when he initiated the slaughter of jumonville'spack of croissant-eating breakfasting frenchmen the initiation of force. you know he was adog of war longing to be let slip. however, it's washington's psychological statethat is the most revealing. refusing to accept
any responsibility for the dire situationhe was in, he blamed both congress and his subordinates instead. crippling despair anda feeling of being betrayed by everyone around him fueled a suicidal rage. how's that repressionworking out? in a letter to one of his cousins, washingtonwrote: "in short, such is my situation that if i were to wish the bitterest curse to anenemy on this side of the grave, i should put him in my stead with my feelings. andyet i do not know what plan of conduct to pursue. i see the impossibility of servingwith reputation or doing any essential service to the cause by continuing in command. andyet i am told that if i quit the command, inevitable ruin will follow from the distractionthat will ensue. in confidence i tell you
that i never was in such an unhappy dividedstate since i was born. if i fall it may not be amiss that these circumstances be knownand declaration made in credit to the justice of my character. and if the man will standby me (which by the by i despair of), i am resolved not to be forced from this groundwhile i have life." when the deep insecurity that underlies narcissismis brought to the surface, an outburst of rage usually follows. psychoanalysts referto this phenomenon as narcissistic rage. it was sheer luck that saved general washingtonhis continental army and likely the entire war. general howe was delayed by poor mapsof the area which gave general robert lee enough time to reach washington's headquartersand shake the commander-in-chief out of his
days. following the advice of general lee, washingtonordered the withdrawal of most of his men, but he himself stayed on the island and joinedthe remainder of his forces in fort washington, a defensive installation he had built priorto howe's arrival in new york. so lee strides into his tent, slapped around the face andsays, "you're going to get cut to pieces here. get your men out of manhattan." even though he had predicted that the britishwould come after the fort and despite his officers telling him the insulation was useless,washington remained there until howe attacked him in november. washington observed the battlefrom a safe distance while the british army
that outnumbered the continentals of a threeto one overwhelmed the fort's defenses and captured nearly 3,000 of his men along 146cannons and other large military supplies. washington subsequently failed to evacuatefort lee, a huge supply depot in new jersey, and the british acquired a large portion ofhis army's arsenal. "these latest calamities -- both foreseeable and avoidable -- plungedwashington into a desperate and forlorn state of mind, perhaps his wartime nadir or a lowpoint, "notes ferling. while leading a dangerous retreat across newjersey, washington found the time to do damage control by scapegoating both the soldiersand the officers in his army. the buck stops nowhere near here apparently. the siege ofboston and the new york campaign reveal a
pattern that washington would repeat withoutfail throughout the revolutionary war. he took all credit for his few victories, yetfervently denied having any responsibility for his numerous losses. however, washington probably suspected thathis favorite strategy wouldn't work this time. the disastrous new york campaign was too gravea failure and his own generals were already criticizing him for his incompetence. he needed a victory, no matter how small,to appease congress and escape a humiliating demotion, if not military court. his desperationpushed him to attempt a bold and possibly suicidal counterattack on the british, whohad abandoned the pursuit to prepare for the
onset of winter. early in the morning of the second day ofchristmas, washington launched a surprise attack on the german mercenaries stationedin the city of trenton, new jersey. significantly inferior in both numbers and artillery, thegermans surrendered within about one and a half hours. here we do see in the quirks ofhistory, the americans fighting against the british and germans. it switches around alittle bit later on in history. in response, the british sent general cornwallisfrom new york to deal with washington's army. the british general's main forces advancedupon trenton from princeton, and eventually trapped the continentals against the delawareriver. however, washington managed to escape
under the cover of the night and marched onprinceton. on his way, he stumbled upon two british regiments and defeated them beforeretreating into safety. overall, washington's army killed 50, woundedthree times as many, and captured a little over one thousand enemy soldiers. it was aninsignificant loss for the british, but the victories at trenton and princeton transformedgeorge washington from a failure that almost lost the war to a shining hero. so there,of course, is good and bad luck in war as there is in anything else. you're marchingthrough the forest and you come across a bunch of sleeping enemies. you can't knit thoseinto any kind of consistent victory, but they can give you brief victories from time totime. even a blindfolded "marksman" will shoot
the target once or twice, it's pretty random.you can blindfold yourself and have a great hit in tennis, but that doesn't mean you'regoing to make it to the top of wimbledon anytime soon. the glimpse of hopes at the end of the disastrous1776 campaign transformed washington in the eyes of america's political elite. "washington's redemptive trenton-princetoncampaign fostered his newfound hope and self-assurance, but it was nourished too praise lavished onhim early in 1777. america's commander-in-chief was lauded to a degree unmatched in the halcyonatmosphere that followed the liberation of boston. so exalted was the commander-in-chiefthe john adams deplored the superstitious
veneration of washington that had seized manyin congress. now, why was everyone so behind washington?why couldn't they get him fired? well, firing in general is incredibly bad for the commander-in-chiefand incredibly bad for the morale of the army. plus, of course, when you take up arms againsta government, you either win or you're dead because you get tried for treason and hung.so they really can all in with regards to washington. if they had fired him, the armywould likely have dissolved. and if he lost, they would all be hunted down and killed.there's an old quote -- one of my favorites -- that says, "treason doth never prosper."what's the reason? if it prospers, none dare call it treason. so treason is when you rebeland lose. if you rebel and win, you're called
the government. so they really were in fora penny, in for a pound running from the news with washington. most congressmen who paid tribute to washingtonappeared to have believed that the disasters in new york had been due to the commander-in-chief'sinexperience or that he'd been let down by those around him. some also seem to have concludedthat the six-month-old united states, which unlike all other western countries was devoidof royalty, needed a figurehead around whom the citizenry could rally. george washingtoncould be the glue that held together the young fragile union, the great man who inspiredloyalty and patriotism, the father image for a paternalistic people, the lonely, altruistic,and majestic preceptor of the nation who sustained
morale during the long difficult war. already, congress had withheld informationfrom the public about washington's many blunders in 1776, and to some degree it had sanctifiedyour name, as robert morris informed the commander in the hope that his purported example woulddraw forth the exertions of some good men. not by accident, some patriots at banquetsand rallies invoked a cry that bore royal overtones: god save great washington. so theywanted to enhance washington's reputation so that it would be easier to recruit newsoldiers. as we mentioned earlier, the editor of thepennsylvania journal remarked that "had he lived in the days of idolatry, washingtonwould have been worshiped as a god." indeed,
general washington was the shining beaconthat congress used to attract volunteers into the crippled and disintegrating continentalarmy. keeping his image unstained was of utmost importance in maintaining civilian moraleas well. however, the campaign of 1777 was about toprove just how difficult it is to prop up a false idol. in september 1777, the continentals clashedwith the british redcoats near brandywine creek, not shire, but pennsylvania. washingtonfailed to properly survey the terrain and frozen with indecision, he ignored reportsof a british flanking maneuver for several hours. he managed to escape howe's trap butlost the battle and suffered heavy casualties.
even though congress privately criticizedwashington for his failures, public blame for brandywine was pinned on john sullivan,one of his generals and professional scapegoat. as ferling noted: "the attack on sullivantook the heat off washington. content for sullivan to be the current scapegoat for hislack of success, washington did nothing to help his subordinate who was eventually vindicatedby a court martial. washington took no responsibility for the many lapses that it nearly produceda crushing defeat on the brandywine." without encountering any opposition, howeentered philadelphia, the provisional capital of the united states, shortly after he wonthe battle of brandywine. he secured this bloodless victory because washington failedto anticipate his maneuvers or send out enough
scouts to figure out what was going on. as if the embarrassing loss of philadelphiawasn't enough, washington was now beginning to encounter competition for the affectionof politicians and the general public. a few weeks after the humiliation of brandywinein philadelphia, general horatio gates of the american continental army scored perhapsthe most crucial victory in the american revolutionary war. in october 1777, after waging a by-the-bookcampaign, the former officer of the crown defeated the british in the battle of saratogacounty, new york. gates' major victory is considered the turning point in the revolutionbecause it demonstrated to potential foreign allies that american rebels had a chance ofwinning the war. indeed, several months later,
france signed a treaty of alliance with theunited states. desperate to redeem himself, washington attemptedto replicate his success from the previous year by carrying out a surprise attack onan outlying british post near philadelphia. three days before gates' victory at saratoga,11,000 continentals clashed with 9,000 redcoats in germantown. washington's plan was to executea synchronized direct attack from all sides. but the strategy was too complex to followand relied on many points of potential failure. so get everyone to surround an army and allattack at the same time. not easy in the days of really crippled communications. nevertheless, the americans still had an advantageand may have won the battle if not for a terrible
decision made by george washington, theircommander. washington squandered an entire brigade and a full hour in an attempt to drivethe british out of a heavily fortified civilian residence called the chew house. a third ofthe american casualties in the battle died there, and the surprise attack ultimatelylost its edge. the british successfully drove washington out of germantown killing, woundingor capturing over one thousand of his men. so if you've got a heavily fortified groupof soldiers, you just go all the way around them. and if you want, you can set up a perimeterand stuff them out in the long run, but you don't assault them directly and squander anentire brigade. again, this is his madness of -- i mean this is like a spiteful kid throwingled soldiers into a hot fire.
some of washington's officers were furiouswith their commander's irrational fixation on the chew house: "it destroyed the moraleof the men," said one while another remarked that victory, which had been within the graspof the continentals, had been shamefully lost through washington's poor leadership. evensome british soldiers were surprised that washington had failed so badly. the scapegoat for washington, scapegoat thistime with general adam stephen, who was made responsible for the defeat at germantown.washington for the lied that the british losses were twice, if not three times, as great whilethe actual number was one half. he even told one politician that, "upon the whole our menare in high spirits and much pleased with
the fortune of the day though not so completelylucky as could have been wished." after learning about general gates' decisivevictory, washington, who was unable to produce a single success throughout the 1777 campaign,began to worry about whether he would be able to remain the head of the army. now, of course,if he was interested in the good of the nation, he would have resigned or never taken it inthe first place. the guy who won was the guy who had been a british soldier for his careeri think. indeed, he was about to wage one of the mostimportant battles in his career. it just so happened that the battlefield was politicaland the adversary was likely imaginary. soon after germantown, washington was tippedoff that a strong faction was supposedly forming
against him in the new board of war and inthe congress, which wished to replace him with horatio gates as commander-in-chief.many influential politicians were indeed starting to question washington's capability to wagewar. "thousands of lives and millions of propertyare yearly sacrificed to the insufficiency of our commander-in-chief," wrote pennsylvania'sattorney general. "two battles he has lost trust by two such blunders as might have disgraceda soldier of three months standing, and yet we are so attached to this man that i fearwe shall rather sink with him than throw him off our shoulders." benjamin rush, one of america's founding fathers,wrote to john adams: "i've heard several officers
who have served under general gates comparehis army to a well-regulated family. the same gentlemen have compared general washington'simitation of an army to an unformed mob. look at the characters of both, the one on thepinnacle of military glory exulting in the success of schemes, plans with wisdom, andexecuted with vigor and bravery -- and above all see a country saved by their exertions.see the other. washington -- outgeneraled and twice beated -- forced to give up a citythe capital of a state and after all outwitted by the same army in a retreat. if our congresscan witness these things with composure and suffer them to pass without an inquiry, ishall think we have not shook off monarchical prejudices and like the israelites of old,we worship the work of our hands.
to make matters worse, many of washington'sown officers were starting to speak out against him in private. one general claimed that washingtonwas the weakest general and to whom he had ever served, adding that if the commander-in-chiefever does anything sensational, he will owe it more to his good luck or to his adversaries'mistakes than to his own ability. another general lamented that washington's force isnot an army; it is a mob. when general horatio gates was promoted topresident of congress's board of war, washington became certain that a vast conspiracy wasplotting his removal as the army's commander. even when some of the most influential virginiancongressman assured him "that a faction in congress against you had never existed," washingtoncontinued to believe that gates and his conspirators
were out to get him. in truth, the vast majority of congressmeneither trusted washington or considered him too dangerous to antagonize: "many in congresssimply believe it too risky to seek the removal of the commander. some thought the situationis so delicate that it was dangerous even to speak ill of washington. to actually seekwashington's ouster would ignite a political firestorm. and it might trigger mass resignationsamong the army's officers, provoking a meltdown of the continental army. washington is toowell established to be easily injured and too important to be supported with," saidone congressman who understood that washington was still idolized by the public.
so of course, the congress said put forwardwashington as a demigod in order to get recruits and to fuel the war morale, and they, of course,when he proved to be incompetent if they had said, "oh, we were wrong," then what wouldpeople think of their judgment? so benjamin rush's claim about congress -- "weworship the work of our hands rather than anything objective" -- now takes new meaning.by holding washington as a symbol of all that is virtuous while simultaneously protectinghis reputation through deception, they reached a point in which the commander-in-chief hadacquired enormous influence over both the army and the general public. as one frenchmilitary chaplain observed, "through all the land he appears like a benevolent god."
decades after the war, john adams wrote aboutwhat congress had done to promote the commander-in-chief: "the great character of george washingtonwas a character of convention. there was a time when northern, middle and southern statesmenand officers of the army expressly agreed to blow the trumpets of panegyrick accoladesin concert to cover and dissemble faults and errors; to represent every defeat is a victoryand every retreat is an advancement; to make that character popular and fashionable, withall parties, in all places and with all persons as a center of union, as the central stonein the geometrical arch." i miss good political writers. going back to the political turmoil that followedgeneral gates' victory, the commander-in-chief
was now waging an ingenious political warfrom his winter quarters in valley forge. he sowed the impression among congressmenthat gates was a member of a secret cabal that conspired to overthrow him, which wouldjeopardize the american revolution. those who believed him confronted colleagues whomthey suspected of harboring doubts, demanding to know why whether they were involved inthe conspiracy. so it's a crazy thing about washington isthat he does in politics what he should have been doing militarily, which was to wage asubtle campaign of deception and of sabotage and guerrilla tactics. so he's very good atdoing that in politics. just this upfront stuff is kind of crazy in the military sphere.
the infighting washington provoked createdan environment in which questioning his virtues invited danger. as one congressman noted,"it was too risky to utter a word of criticism about washington." a general, who the paranoidcommander-in-chief implicated in the conspiracy, was challenged to a duel and nearly killed.fear and hysteria mixed with joy over the alliance with france and served to elevatewashington to new heights. so even criticizing washington, people wereso hysterical that they've lost the war they'd all be killed that if you can criticize washington,you could be challenged. i mean that's some serious trollery. john ferling describes the commander-in-chief'ssocial standing after losing two battles,
squandering philadelphia, yet winning thepolitical war: "washington had been lauded for his successes in boston and the trenton-princetoncampaign, but valley forge was the time of his transfiguration. as never before, washingtoncame to be seen as the truly heroic figure. he was saluted as the glue that held togetherthe army and its angry officers through the winter encampment in 1778. "that winter, washington's birthday was celebratedpublicly for the first time. the celebration was contrived but veneration for washingtonwas swelling. almanacs, which had once documented the king's birthday, now noted washington's.a patriot's catechism circulated that pointed to general washington as the best man living.a political abc for youngsters published that
year proclaimed, the w stands for brave washington,and worlds that rejoice for the honor he's won. "literary works were dedicated to washington,the savior of his country, the supporter of freedom, and the benefactor of mankind. toaststo the commander-in-chief became fashionable. in 1778, washington was called the fatherof his country for the first time, and by year's end it was commonplace for him to bepraised in that manner." if george washington was an untouchable before,he certainly was now. meanwhile, general gates had fallen out of favor with congress andmany others in the military. in june 1778, washington clashed with thebritish army that was withdrawing through
monmouth county, new jersey in what becamethe last major battle in the north. general lee prepared the strategy and led the operation,and even though both sides suffered equal losses, the british rearguard achieved a tacticalvictory by successfully covering the main army's withdrawal. lee ordered a retreat, but in the heat ofthe battle, he neglected to inform washington. when the commander-in-chief learned aboutlee's order, he immediately headed towards the front lines. but on his way there, hewas told by some soldiers that the retreat was unnecessary, which wasn't true. when he caught up with his general, the furiouswashington exploded with rage and started
cursing lee. as one eyewitness recalled, "heswore that day till the leaves shook on the trees. never have i enjoyed such a swearingbefore or since." over the next few days, washington kept silentas mounting evidence showed that lee's decision was justified. general lee, on the other hand,started to publicly criticize washington and demanded a court martial to clear his name.he obviously didn't understand what he was getting into. even congressmen couldn't goagainst washington at this point: "although the court martial transcript eloquentlydemonstrates that lee had probably saved a considerable portion of the american armyat monmouth, he was convicted of breach of orders and having ordered an unnecessary disorderlyand shameful retreat."
unwilling to settle for such injustice, hecontinued to protest until he was challenged to a duel for having disparaged the characterof the commander-in-chief. after getting shot and nearly killed. lee finally learned hislesson. in a letter to congress, he bitterly remarked that "george washington is considereda necessary man. he is to be indulged in the sacrifice of any officer whom from jealousypique or caprice he may have devoted to destruction." so george washington gets away with disobeyingorders, starting wars, setting fire most likely to new york against the orders of congress.nothing bad happens to him. he's the father of the country. lee orders a necessary retreatand is nearly killed. george washington remained passive for thenext three years. he vetoed proposals to attack
canada largely because horatio gates wouldlead the invasion army, and washington was painfully slow to grasp the significance ofthe war in the southern states. what occupied his mind was a grand strategy,as he called it, to retake new york city. however, no one else was willing to get behindthe strategy because the city was an impregnable fortress. this didn't stop washington fromcontinuously proposing the idea and obsessing over the glorious end it would bring to thewar. above all, a victory in new york might have eradicated the memory of the egregiouslosses that he had sustained on these islands in 1776. general henry clinton, who had taken overas the british commander-in-chief after howe
resigned in 1778, "prayed that the allieswould attack new york." he believed the almost certain failure of a franco-american siegewould swing the war around in favor of the british. washington, however, was blind to the dangersof the campaign he was trying to organize. new york had become the moby dick to his captainahab, an irrational desire for victory against all evidence. by 17800, france's treasury was bleeding dryand reports indicated that washington showed no signs of acting boldly. desperate to endthe war as quickly as possible, the french government sent over its own professionalarmy. it's like musical chairs. we'll fight
the french. they're our allies. when washington met with the comte de rochambeau,france's commander-in-chief, he immediately proposed an attack on new york, which thefrench general saw as an exercise in wishful thinking. rochambeau proposed an invasionof canada instead, and washington temporarily agreed with the plan. the final decision wasto be made during the next formal conference. the two commanders met again next year toplan the campaign of 1781. surprisingly, washington yet again urged an attack on new york. losinghis patience, rochambeau bluntly reiterated all his objections to such a reckless moveand proposed a campaign in virginia instead. however, washington didn't back down thistime. as rochambeau wrote: "general washington,
during this conference, had scarcely anotherobject in view but an expedition against the island of new york." the french general eventuallycomplied with washington's wishes: "given that rochambeau remained under orders to deferto the wishes of the american commander, he consented to march his army from rhode islandto the periphery of manhattan where the allies would prepare for a joint operation to retakenew york. "unbeknownst to washington and in defianceof his wishes, rochambeau secretly planning what he believed would be a campaign thatwas more likely than an attack on new york to produce a decisive outcome." during the discussions the french generalpurposely omitted the fact that the french
fleet had been ordered to set sail for northamerica. when the conference was over, he immediately contacted the comte de grasse,the admiral in command of the fleet, ordering him to arrive in chesapeake bay, virginiaas opposed to new york. rochambeau eventually informed washingtonof the admiral's voyage but lied about the actual destination. when he finally learnedthat that de grasse will be arriving in virginia, the stunned washington was forced to complywith the secret plan of the french commander-in-chief. rochambeau's target in virginia was lord cornwallis,one of clinton's leading generals, who was stationed at yorktown near chesapeake bay.ironically, it was washington's incompetence that set the stage for a franco-american checkmatein the revolutionary war. expecting the allies
to attack new york and confident that he'dbe able to repel them on his own, general clinton didn't recall the army of cornwallis,leaving it widely exposed. in the battle of chesapeake, admiral de grasse'sfleet cut off the royal navy's access to yorktown, while 16,000 allied soldiers surrounded thecity. trapped from all directions, cornwallis and his 9,000 men were doomed. please note,this was the exact opposite of anything that george washington wanted to do. i wonder whoget the credit. washington left the attack in the hands ofrochambeau, who was experienced in siegecraft, while he lounged around giving minute orders:"never had he lived so comfortably during the course of an engagement."
after over a week of heavy artillery bombardment,which kept the redcoats crouched in terror, while reducing the village to rubble, thebritish general finally surrendered. when the battle was over, washington publiclythanked rochambeau for his cheerful and able assistance. apparently, as far as our georgewashington was concerned, carrying out a masterful strategic campaign and capturing a britishgeneral only qualified assistance. as was typical of washington, he took allthe credit for the decisive victory. a letter to him from the president of congress exudedecstatic admiration: "words fail me when i attempt to bestow my small tribute of thanksand praise to a character so eminent for wisdom, courage and patriotism, and one who appearsto be no less the favored of heaven than of
his country. i shall only therefore beg youto be assured that you are held in the most grateful remembrance, and with a peculiarveneration by all the wise and good in these united states." he then proceeded to cleanwashington's boots with his tongue. naturally, congress wasn't informed of whathad happened behind the scenes, but neither did it care. years after the war, washington went so faras to claim that he never was in contemplation to attack new york. as historian ron chernownoted: "washington later tried to rewrite history by suggesting that his tenacious concentrationon new york was a mere feint to mislead the british in virginia while maintaining thepolitical allegiance of the eastern and mid
atlantic states. "he wanted to portray himself as the visionaryarchitect of the yorktown victory, not as a general misguidedly concentrating upon newyork while his french allies masterminded the decisive blow. washington made it difficultfor people to catch his lie because he alleged that he had tried to deceive his own sideas well as the enemy. hence any communication could be construed as part of the master bluff."he says, "i never wanted to attack new york." and he kept writing to people, "i want toattack new york." he's like, "that was just to fool the british. i never wanted to..."anyway. the crushing defeat at yorktown eventuallyprompted the crown to negotiate an end to
the anglo-american conflict, and it wouldbe argued that the revolutionary war was won despite george washington's command. nevertheless,he went down in history as the heroic general who lost most battles yet emerged victoriousin the end. as one historian writes: "washington savedthe new nation from near destruction and led the way to victory. for doing so he was reveredto the point of near deification and became the model for all future american commandersin chief." historians have often argued that his rolewas to serve as a shining beacon that motivated and guided the continental army through thedarkest hours of the revolution. it was his character that was important, not his militaryaccomplishments. but when one looks at the
real man and not the idol that was craftedthrough public relations campaigns, it's hard to see any virtues at the core of his legend. while yorktown was the last major land battle,washington still had an important part to play as commander-in-chief of the continentalarmy. with the prospect of peace on the horizon, washington announced that he would resignas commander-in-chief and return to civilian life, a decision that turned him into an iconof civic virtues. of course, most times in history in the caesar style, the guy who winsthe battles ends up becoming the civilian ruler. he was immediately associated withlucius cincinnatus, a famous roman official who rescued rome in war and then selflesslyrelinquish the power he was bestowed.
washington was so revered that an organizationcomprised of war veterans called itself the society of the cincinnati to honor it. interestinglyenough, the city of cincinnati, ohio was named after this organization. so why did he give up the power he could soeasily obtain? there are several reasons. the state of washington's business had severelydecayed during his eight and a half year absence. furthermore, according to his own estimates,he had lost about 10,000 pounds because debtor's paid him with inflated currency. while hisfinancial situation wasn't dire, it did require his immediate attention. washington was also well aware of his advancedage. as he wrote a year after his resignation,
"i called to mind the days of my youth, andfound that they had long since fled to return no more; and that i was now descending thehill. i had been 52 years climbing and that though i was blessed with a good constitution,i was of a short-lived family. i might soon expect to be entombed in the dreary mansionsof my father's." but above all else, he realized that the climbthe staircase of power even further, he had to step down first. as one washington scholar noted: "washingtonwas a virtuoso of resignation. he perfected the art of getting power by giving it away.he tried this first unsuccessfully as a young colonel of militia, but then only as a gesturefrom hurt pride. he was still learning that
mere power to refuse is real but limited.the power would later be refined as would the gestures -- when he learned the creativepower of surrender. his whole war service was urged forward under the archway of twopledges -- to receive no pay and to resign when independence was won. he was choreographinghis departure with great care. it was an act of theatre and the world applauded." if washington hadnâ€™t honored the promiseto resign, the virtuous character that congress that so masterfully created would have crumbledinto dust, and the legend of george washington would never take flight. interestingly, even though the act of resigningwent down in history as a shining example
of a lack of ambition for power, another aspectof it has remained largely ignored. before his resignation, washington, in 1783 circularletter to the states, pledged not to take any share in public business hereafter. needlessto say, he did not honor that promise. while washington was busy organizing a theatricalreturn to civilian life, the debt-ridden economy of the united states was on the verge of collapse. following the outbreak of the war in 1775,congress began issuing the continental a paper currency that replaced the british pound sterling.within three years, the young country was getting ravaged by hyperinflation, as politiciansattempted to print their way out of a mounting war debt. inflation is not rising prices.inflation is creating or printing more money
than the growth of the economy can justifyso just to mention that this is a constant problem. after the first world war, of course,the republic hyperinflated currency. i've got a whole podcast series or video serieson french inflation of currency around the time of the revolution and so on, so i justwanted to mention that. so under the articles of confederation, whichwas the first constitution of the united states, congress didn't have the power to levy taxes,and so it turned to the printing presses as an alternative to fund itself. indeed, itwould have been difficult to impose taxation to fund a war that was started over the issueof british taxes. so here's how one writer described the economiccarnage of hyperinflation: "the annihilation
was so complete that barber shops were paperedin jest with the bills; and the sailors, on returning from their crews, being paid offin bundles of this worthless money, had suits of clothes made of it and with characteristiclight-heartedness turned their loss into a frolic by parading through the streets indecayed finery, which in its better days had passed for thousands of dollars." a contemporary merchant and author wrote:"paper money polluted the equity of our laws, turned them into engines of oppression, corruptedthe justice of our public administration, destroyed the fortunes of thousands who hadconfidence in it, enervated the trade, husbandry and manufacturers of our country, and wentfar to destroy the morality of our people."
fair description of what happened after nixonwent off the gold standard in 1971. george washington also complained about therampant inflation: "the depreciation of it, the continental, is got to so alarming a pointthat a wagon load of money will scarcely purchase a wagon load of provision." wealthy americans who had become creditorsof the united states congress began to worry that they'd never see their money back, andso they began to lobby for a more powerful federal government that would be able to payits debts by imposing taxes. as one historian noted: "the calls for substantiveconstitutional remodeling of the articles of confederation came almost exclusively frommajor speculators, the urban financial and
commercial centers in the north and southernplanters and slave owners whose states were a sectional minority in the articles of confederationand whose slave-owning properties lacked adequate safeguards under the existing framework." however, despite the strong push of the one-percentersof the time, the five percent federal import tax amendments of 17781 and 1783 were bothrejected. indeed, back then in light of what started the revolution, a mere five percentimport -- not income -- tax was a very controversial proposition because the power to levy taxeswould give the central government a huge amount of power. as alexander hamilton wrote in 1780: "allimposts upon commerce ought to be laid by
congress and appropriated to their use, forwithout certain revenues, a government can have no power, that power, which holds thepurse strings absolutely must rule." hamilton, a fervent federalist who servedas an aide-de-camp or field assistant to george washington during the war, would soon becomeone of america's founding fathers and the chief architect of the country's financialsystem. the federalists, as those who favored thecreation of a strong federal government, came to be known, were becoming increasingly desperate,especially when the threat of england began fading into the horizon and as the war wascoming to an end. in 1782, robert morris, the superintendentof finance and one of the wealthiest men in
the united states, stopped paying the armyto allegedly alleviate the young nation's crushing debt burden. morris considered housingand food to be sufficient until the war ended and the economy regained its footing. not surprisingly, by the end of the year,the soldiers' patience had run out, prompting major general alexander mcdougal to ride intophiladelphia on behalf of the army encamped at newburgh to petition congress to reinstatemilitary pay. proponents of the federal tax amendment seizedupon the army's discontent as an opportunity to advance their agenda, and federalist likerobert morris, alexander hamilton and gouverneur morris embarked on the dangerous path of stokingthe officers' resentment, thus threatening
anti-federalists in congress with the possibilityof a military coup d'etat. if you don't pass a amendment, how are you going to pay thesesoldiers? and if you don't pay the soldiers, they come after you. i'm going to do you afavor. don corleone could learn a lot in the subtle mafia style of early american politics,which is not wildly contrasted by the not so subtle mafia style of later american politics. it was a plan fraught with peril, but theconspirators executed it masterfully, and washington was to play a crucial role. so hamilton sent a letter to washington, whowas still commander-in-chief at the time, asking him to use his vast influence and actas a peacemaker by putting out the fire that
the federalists themselves were starting. historian richard kohn describes a difficultposition the general was put in: "on the one hand, he could in no sense compromise congress'sjurisdiction over the military. on the other hand, the officer's temper had turned so uglyand so directly in conflict with civil authority that a refusal to stand on their side -- perhapsany council of moderation -- might cost him his position and authority. yet washingtonnever wavered. he was certain that the sensible and discerning part of the army could scarcelybe unacquainted with his faithful service, that by the sheer power of his personalityand the officers' almost filial devotion to their commander, he could continue, as hewrote hamilton, to hold them within the bounds
of reason and moderation." washington was kept in the dark regardingthe full extent of the federalist plan, but he was given enough hints to puzzle out thatsoldiers "are to be made use of as mere puppets to establish continental funds, and that ratherthan not succeed in this measure or weaken their ground, they [the federalists] wouldmake a sacrifice of the army and all its interests." the commander-in-chief later advised againstplaying such dangerous double games because "the army considering the irritable stateit is in, its sufferings and composition is a dangerous instrument to play with." when the tensions between the army and congressreached a boiling point, it was time for washington
to make a grand entrance and put on a greatshow. in a famous speech before a handful of high-rankingofficers, washington expressed his shock and disappointment in the mutinous sentimentswithin the army. he proposed a peaceful course of action that would better serve militaryinterests, and even demonstrate to the whole world that "the last stage of perfection inhumanity has not been reached yet." however, the appeal didn't achieve the desiredeffect: "no one knew better than washington, a devotee of the theater and admirer of actionthat his speech had turned a few heads. washington, a polished actor himself -- the best he hadever observed in his quarter century in public life, john adams once noted -- seized themoment with his final gesture."
washington pulled out a letter from a congressman-- a letter filled with empty promises -- but appeared to have difficulty reading it. hereached into his coat once more, pulled out a pair of glasses, put them on, and in a softvoice that resonated despair and fatigue apologized to his audience: "gentlemen, you must pardonme. i have grown gray in your service and now find myself growing blind." while his previous speech did not move thehearts of the officer, this simple gesture reduced the battle-hardened men to tears."all fire and zeal and all defiance evaporated in a flash," wrote one historian. after hefinished reading the letter, washington left the room without a word. his job was done.
ferling writes: "washington had followed thescript that hamilton had prepared for him, and in a dazzling performance he had snuffedout the officers' conspiracy of newburgh, reinforced the principle that in america themilitary remain subservient to civil rule and solidified his reputation. many wouldnow see him as the leader who had saved the american revolution from the menace of a standingarmy and treacherous officers. even some who had never been sold on washington's meritsas a general now saw him in a different light. more than ever, he was seen as a leader tobe cleaved to. so it's a challenge, right? you go to waragainst the british saying, "we're going to liberate you from foreign taxation. in sodoing, you create an enormous debt, and then
you have to raise taxes higher than they werebefore. under the british, in order to pay off the cost of freeing yourself from taxationmeans you have to raise taxes higher. the federalists ultimately achieve their goal.george washington's fame soared to new heights and the soldiers got what they wanted. thefact that the young country had come perilously close to becoming a military dictatorshipbecause of the zeal of the federalists and the issue of taxes remains a topic that ahandful of historians occasionally bring up. hamilton's plan may have ended in a bloodbathif it wasn't for the shining image of the beloved commander-in-chief. time and again,washington demonstrated that his mythologized character serves an important political purpose,and so the presidency was the logical next
step in his career. indeed, even while thebattle over the ratification of the new constitution of the united states raged on, he privatelymused over whether to accept the inevitable proposals to become president. when a torrent of proposals eventually camealong, it took him months to finally accept them, "that washington delayed his acceptancefor so long was largely theater by the consummate actor but not entirely self-serving," writesferling. "part of his authority, his political capital, came from his image as one who didnot seek power for himself, but who acted only to answer his country's call. his showof reluctance served to reinforce this." at the age of 57, washington left the comfortof his plantation to resume his political
career. the results of the presidential electionwere entirely predictable -- he became the only president in the history of the unitedstates to have received one hundred percent of the electoral votes. while his victorieson the battlefield were rare and questionable, in politics he was unmatched by anyone. one newspaper proclaimed before the election:"can europe boast of such a man? -- or can the history of the world shew an instanceof such a voluntary compact between the deliverer and delivered of any country, as will probablysoon take place in the united states?" i think that's rhetorical. alas, if only this voluntary compact wasn'tpermeated by such entrenched mythology...
it should be noted that washington was notthe first president of the united states. he was the first president under the currentus constitution. john hanson, washington's predecessor, waselected president under the articles of confederation. while this may seem like a small technicality,the powerful symbolism of the phrase "first president" shouldn't be underestimated froma psychological standpoint. president washington didn't take a very activerole in the establishment of the new government. he often felt unfit for the presidency becauseof his lack of legal training, which prevented him from discussing matters that pertainedto the constitution. furthermore, his lack of knowledge in economicsalso presented a challenge given the pressing
issue of public debt in the post-war period.he wrote: "i am so little conversant in public securities of very kind as to not know theuse or value of them, and hardly the difference of one species from another," and that wasthe year before he became president. nevertheless, washington did leave his markon several important events that took place during his two terms as president. historians have often viewed george washingtonand the question of slavery or how not all men are created equal. in the negative, theyexamined what the president didn't do and perhaps what he should have done. a briefhistory of washington's background with slavery is in order before we continue to explorethis subject.
george washington became a slave owner ata very young age. he inherited ten slaves from his father when he was eleven years old;and throughout his life as a planter, slaves continued to play an essential role in theoperation of his business. he was pretty harsh by many reports. richard parkinson, an englishman who livednear mount vernon, once reported that "it was the sense of all of his neighbors thathe treated his slaves with more severity than any other man." again, there's that repressedrage thing, right? washington referred to his slaves as "a speciesof property" and used harsh punishment against them including whippings.
he also, on several occasions, sold slavesto a buyer in the west indies, which meant that the slave would never again see his familyor friends. in april 1781, 17 washington's slaves escaped to a british warship wherethey were technically free. washington's personal assistant also planned to escape with hisfiancã©e, but his plans were discovered and thwarted. washington's family cook herculesdid escape successfully. what a polish poet visited the washingtonestate in 1789, he was startled by the poor conditions in which washington's slaves lived:"we entered some negroes' huts, for their habitations cannot be called houses. theyare far more miserable than the poorest of the cottages of our peasants. the husbandand his wife sleep on a miserable bed, the
children on the floor. a very poor chimney,a little kitchen furniture amid the misery, a teakettle and cups. a boy about 15 was lyingon the floor with an attack of dreadful convulsions. they receive a cotton jacket and a pair ofbreeches yearly." a washington scholar noted that, "most ofthe slaves who worked washington's farms he treated as cattle and referred to only bytheir first names." what is interesting is that "today at mountvernon, washington's estate, which has been preserved, as a historical site, a well-builtbasement space made to represent slave quarters has been well furnished." indeed, the whitwashing of history is often in full effect when it comes to president washington.
during his presidency, washington, of course,moved to philadelphia, which subjected him to a very interesting law, pennsylvania'sgradual abolition act of 1780, which postulated that slaves who lived in the state for longerthan six months were automatically set free. what did he do? well, to circumvent this lawhe moved his slaves out types outside the state every six months. he wrote to his personal secretary: "i requestthat these sentiments and this advice may be known to none but yourself and mrs. washington."so in order to maintain his slaves, he just moved them out and moved them back in. washington also signed the first fugitiveslave law in 1793. so before this, if you
made it to a free state like a non-slave stateas a slave then you would be free or at least you couldn't be seized. the fugitive slavelaw meant fleeing slaves could be seized in any state, and harboring or assisting a fugitivecost a $500 penalty and potential imprisonment. so very harsh. in 1793 to 1794, washington authorized $400,000and 1,000 weapons for the slave owners of the french colony of what would later be calledhaiti so that they could put down a slave rebellion. in may of 1796, a heartbreaking story, onajudge, a 22-year-old slave woman who had been with the washingtons since she was 15 andwas the personal maid of martha washington,
escaped from the president's house in philadelphia.she fled because she overheard martha washington planning to give her away to her granddaughteras a wedding gift. ona judge ended up in portsmouth, new hampshire, which is virtually slave-freecity with 363 blacks. then she got married. she had three children. of course, legallyboth she and her children still belonged to martha washington. washington was hot on her tail pursued herfor three years -- sending relatives, friends and officials to find and seize her. even12 weeks before he died, he was still directing her capture. in his will, washington directed that hisslaves be emancipated after the death of his
wife. he's a smart guy. you got to wonderhow well he liked his wife. so she's surrounded by all these slaves who desperately want tobe free, and the only thing standing between the washington slaves and their freedom isthe pulse of martha washington. i'm not sure she would have slept too soundly, "hey, who'sthat?" "i'm coming to free myself." so she actually freed them in 1800. she was fearingfor her life, of course. of course, washington didn't have any biologicalchildren to give his slaves to, so the fact that he emancipated them, he also was awareof the value of slaves was diminishing because of more automation and better procedures infarming. now, george washington's wife, martha washington, lived until 1802 with all of herslaves to her inheritance emancipating none.
now, some of the land that the washingtonsinherited had slaves that they could not legally sell, so there's that aspect as well. as evidence that george washington took teethfrom his slaves, paying them about a third of the going rate and, of course, if you'rea slave you know really have a lot of economic independence. george washington paid for whetherthe teeth were extracted or fell out, probably extracted. taking teeth from your slaves whilethrowing them a couple of coins seems a little brutal to me. the first bank of the united states -- intothe land of central banking and fiat currency, a big topic but we'll keep it brief. thankyou for your patience -- washington displayed
a rather unusual figure when it came to theresidence act of 1790, which set a loose boundary in the federal district along the potomacriver for where the new capital of the united states would be situated but allowed the presidentto choose the precise location. washington immediately asked congress to revisethe act and move the boundary slightly to the south so that it would encompass landthat he owned. his search for the best side of the capitol was so transparently dictatedby his self-interest that it aroused whispers at the time although no one dared speak out. however, washington's request overlapped withanother piece of legislation which made his goal a lot harder to achieve.
alexander hamilton, now a secretary of thetreasury, wanted to replicate the british mercantilist economic system in the unitedstates, and his plan included the creation of a central bank modeled after the bank ofengland. this is basically giving the government monopoly of the capacity to create currencyat will. while washington deferred to hamilton in most matters of governance, he didn't likethe central bank proposal and neither did james madison or thomas jefferson. like many 18th century people, the presidentwas deeply suspicious of the banking industry. hamilton's central bank would issue papercurrency and inflate the money supply, both of which were policies that washington stronglyopposed, at least in principle. before he
became president, he wrote to the former deputygovernor of rhode island: "paper money has had the effect in your state that it everwill have, to ruin commerce, oppress the honest, and open the door to every species of fraudand injustice. after congress eagerly passed the bank bill,those who opposed it put their hope in washington's presidential veto. however, their hopes weresoon crushed. it took washington over a week but he finally signed the bill into law. whathappened? the president found himself at the intersection point of the vested interestsurrounding the bank bill and the residence act. as one historian noted: "disgusted to seethe federal district placed so far south and
anxious to see the bank bill passed, northernsenators ominously deferred washington's request. for the first time ever, congress withheldone act to pressure the executive into signing another. to avoid a setback fatal to the potomac,washington approved the bank. within hours of getting what it wanted, the senate obliginglymodified the federal district's boundaries." so washington wanted to increase the valueof the lands by having the capital closer to his lands or on his lands, and they withheldthat bill until he signed the banking bill, and then he signed it. so to increase thevalue of his lands, he set in motion central banking. many years later, john adams complained thatwashington had profited from the federal city
by which he raised the value of his propertyand that of his family a thousand percent at an expense of the public of more than hiswhole fortune. what was the cost of washington's lucrative profit? the first bank of the united states, whichthe bank bill established, was considered unconstitutional by many, and it set the stagefor the development of the country's financial instruments all the way up to the presentfederal reserve system. the new bank immediately started issuing millionsof dollars in paper money, and the resulting inflation caused a 72-percent price increasein a span of just five years. so this led all the way to the federal reserve institutedin 1913. central banking paved the way for
america's entry into the first world war andamerica's entry in the first world war, which was papered over with currency printed bythe federal reserve allowed for england and france to decisively crash germany. as germanywas being decisively crushed, it sent lenin through finland to overthrow the romanovsand establish the communist dictatorship in russia. see, i told you i was going to get there.you didnâ€™t believe, did you? now you see. more importantly, the lessons of what happenedwith the continental were quickly forgotten. now the politicians could pay their debtswith inflated money. another landmark event during washington'spresidency was the whiskey rebellion. good
name for a band. on the day prior to proposing the bank bill,hamilton urged a tax on distilled spirits -- the whiskey tax. it was the first tax thatthe new government imposed on a domestic product, and it turned into the spark that starteda fire. the tax proposal was approved by congress despite the fact that, as washington recalled,"it was vehemently affirmed by many that such a law could never be executed in the southernstates." get between a southern man and his whiskey, and you have a southern man wholeshape, size between you and the whiskey. indeed, given that the tea act of 1773 triggereda war with great britain, it didn't take an oracle to foretell that hostilities woulderupt over the excise whiskey tax of 1791.
after a trip to the south, washington becameconvinced that the tax will be carried into effect not only without opposition but withvery general approbation in those very parts where it was foretold that it would neverbe submitted to by anyone. this tax isnâ€™t going to cause any problems. he was wrong.i'm sure he blamed the general. outrage over the tax reached a crescendo withinthree years after a series of attacks on tax collectors. hamilton argued: "a competent force of militiashould be called forth and employed to suppress the insurrection and support the civil authorityin effectuating obedience to the laws and the punishment of offenders. it appears tome that the very existence of government demands
this course and that a duty of the highestnature urges the civil magistrate to pursue it. the constitution and laws of the unitedstates contemplate and provide for it." washington agreed with this proposal, andin august 1794 issued a proclamation couched in language that was remarkably similar tothat used by george iii in 1775 when he proclaimed that his american subjects were in rebellion.history is the same damn story over and over again, just with different costumes and mildlyvaried accents. riding at the head of about 13,000 militiamen-- an army only slightly smaller than the forces he commanded at yorktown -- washingtonheaded for pennsylvania, which he declared to be in a state of open rebellion. the rebelsfled at the sight of the army and the conflict
ended without bloodshed. so how's that anti-tax movement working outfor you? ferling noted: "washington's use of forceto suppress the whiskey rebellion won the approval of most citizens, the lion's shareof whom not only deplored the violence of the tax resisters, but in a country in whichthree-fourths of the party affiliated press consisted of federalist newspapers obtainedmost of their information about the affair from prejudicial sources. see, even back inthe day, hundreds of years ago, the press was on the left. the quelling of the whiskey rebellion setan important precedent in the history of the
united states, and the similarities betweenhow the british and the americans handled an insurrection over taxes should give anyonepause. history seems to repeat itself. it's because so staunchly resist its lessons. "government is not reason, it is not eloquence,it is force." this quote is frequently misattributed to george washington, but it's still prettyimportant to note in light of what the pennsylvania farmers went through. don't pay taxes, 13,000guys will arrive with swords and muskets. and they ain't there to chat. washington is often praised for his nonpartisanapproach to politics, but in reality he was a staunch federalist and aligned himself withother supporters of the idea of a strong central
government. the man in charge of the centralgovernment was very keen on a strong... anyway. this eventually drove a wedge in its relationshipwith both thomas jefferson and james madison. a nonpartisan, it's so weird. you're supposedto be voting for viable alternatives. but then when one of those viable alternativeswho aren't supposed to be mirror images of each other gets in power, somehow they'resupposed to both act the same way and it's called nonpartisan. it's completely bizarre.well, there's food, see, and there's poison. you got to choose between one. you choosethe food. okay, now i'm supposed to act like a poison, which he does. by the end of his second term, washingtonwas worn out physically and emotionally due
to his advanced age and the increasing tensionbetween the two political factions in american politics. even though most of the media at the time-- three-fourths -- was controlled by the federalists, washington was still receivinga lot of criticisms for his political decisions. as one historian noted: "the anti-federalist/republicanpublic attacks were vicious and lacerating. as washington himself said, they assailedhim in such exaggerated terms as could scarcely be applied to a nero, a notorious defaulteror even to a common pickpocket. when he retired as president in 1797, republican congressmen,including andrew jackson, refused to thank him for his services. republican legislatorsof his own virginia debated his wisdom and
patriotism. and the nation's chief republicaneditor called for a jubilee of rejoicing "that's the name of washington from this day ceasesto give currency to political iniquity and to legalize corruption." such criticism followedhim into retirement at mount vernon. there's nothing better than being veneratedbecause when you're worshipped, there's never a backlash ever, is there? people never getmad at you for their own irrational veneration of you. so for a man who was obviously veryconcerned with his public image, the presidency was in fact only hurting his legacy. thank you for making it to the conclusion.washington died at home on december 14, 1799, too lazy to make it to the next century. withhis family surrounding his deathbed, his second
term as president had ended two years earlierand having achieved the status of demigod, he returned to the ordinary life of a plantawaiting the end of his life. but even though the man expired, his legend lived on. historian john ferling concluded his semi-biographicaltreatise on george washington with a very poignant observation. what is most remarkableabout washington's ascent is that he emerged an unsurpassed hero from two wars in whichhe committed dreadful, even spectacular blunders and was personally responsible for only marginalsuccesses. much of the aura that surrounded washington in life and death, in particularthe perception of his masterful generalship, reluctance to hold power and lofty disinterestednesson partisan issues was mythological.
but nation builders know that legendary heroesand mythical tales are essential for the creation and maintenance of their realm. otherwise,the very idea of nationhood is likely to seem to many to be only a delusion. they also knewthat the iconic washington was as indispensable in death as he had been in life. fusing mythand reality, george washington was made the template for the virtues and character thatsupposedly were necessary for assuring national ascendancy. although ferling speaks from theperspective of a student of history, he's also making a very political -- or apoliticaldepending on how you view it -- statement. there is a myth, a lie at the core of everycountry, a fundamental falsehood embedded in the ideas that legitimize governments.but what is this falsehood? in 1786, george
washington wrote "that mankind left to themselvesare unfit for their own government." how then can he justify his governance of other people?is he not part of the mankind he speaks of? this obvious contradiction is hidden awayin the act of mythologizing a person, a leader. by elevating george washington above mankind,by creating a hero, the founders of america legitimized their rule above the common ordinarypeople. to rule over mere mortals who were unfit to rule themselves, you must createdivinity. falsehoods precipitate exploitation and mythology is often the vehicle for themost dangerous falsehoods humanity has ever invented. there are many lessons that we can draw fromthe life and myth of george washington. in
my work with other historical figures -- gandhi,che guevara, nelson mandela, and so on -- and the truth about series as a whole, i havestriven to demythologize heroes and illuminate the lies that create them so that you, mylisteners, my watchers, my friends can live happier and more fulfilling and more powerfullives. when we take down false idols, we make room for ourselves to become real heroes inlife and to contribute in a positive and meaningful way to the great unfolding story of mankind.when we look up, we feel smaller. when we look level, we grow into greatness. thank you so much for watching.