For more information on George Washington, visit the Papers of George Washington Web site. (See Sources Used.)


George Washington

Life Before the Presidency

Born in 1732, into a Virginia planter family, George Washington learned the morals, manners, and knowledge required of an 18th century Virginia gentleman. He pursued two related interests: military arts and western expansion.

At 16, Washington helped survey the Shenandoah lands for Thomas, Lord Fairfax (an English Baron who lived near Washington's half-brother Lawrence and owned vast parts of Virginia farmland). Working for Fairfax, a young Washington learned much about surveying land. These skills helped him later manage his large Mount Vernon estate and acquire additional valuable land.

Washington was commissioned a lieutenant colonel in the Virginia militia in 1754. He fought the first battles of what became the French and Indian War. This conflict came about because Britain and France both strove to occupy the upper Ohio Valley. As an aide to General Edward Braddock, Washington escaped injury when four bullets ripped through his coat. He also had two horses shot out from under him. His experiences in the French and Indian War taught him the skills to be a great military leader; skills he would later need in the fight for independence from England.

From 1759 to the outbreak of the American Revolution, Washington managed his lands around Mount Vernon. He also served in the Virginia House of Burgesses for 16 years. The House of Burgesses was the governing body in the colonies before the Revolution. By 1774, Washington, along with other Virginia burgesses, was opposed to the excessive taxes the British imposed on the colonists. The burgesses proposed a continental congress be held to take the place of the Virginia assembly, which was under the direction of the British-appointed Governor. Washington was appointed chairman of this meeting that resulted in the forming of the First Continental Congress. It was created to show a united front when expressing their upset with the new laws created by the British Parliament that affected the colonies.

Like his fellow planters, Washington felt the British merchants were taking advantage of the colonists. He disliked the British regulations. As the quarrel with England grew, he firmly voiced his objections to Britain's restrictions.

Learn more about George Washington:

Life Before the Presidency
Commander-in-Chief
Presidential Accomplishments
Did You Know?
Life After the Presidency
Washington's Legacy