George Washington

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 11th grade June 2001

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George Washington was the first president of the United States. He held office from 1789 through 1797 and is one of the most important leaders in United States history. His role in gaining independence for the American colonies and later in tying them under the new U.S. federal government can't be over estimated. He never ceased to work for the Union of the states under a strong central government. He was a leading influence in persuading the states to participate in the Constitutional Convention, over which he presided, and he used his prestige to help gain ratification of the Constitution of the United States.

George Washington was born in Westmoreland County, Virginia, on February 22, 1732. He was the eldest son of a Virginia farmer, Augustine Washington, by his second wife, Mary Ball. The Washington family was descended from two brothers, John and Lawrence Washington. The family's rise to modest wealth was the result of steady application to farming, land buying, and development of local industries.

George seems to have received most of his schooling from his father. He applied his mathematical abilities to acquiring knowledge of surveying, which was a skill in demand in a country where people were seeking new lands in the west. His first real adventure as a boy was accompanying a surveying party to the Shenandoah Valley of Northern Virginia. When his was seventeen he was appointed surveyor of Culpeper County, Virginia, which was the first public office he held.

In 1751, George had his first and only experience of foreign lands when he accompanied his half brother Lawrence to the island of Barbados. Lawrence was very ill with tuberculosis and thought that the climate might help, but the trip did him little good. Moreover, George was stricken with smallpox. Fortunately, this experience gave...