Gen. Washington and the events of his life could feature into a compelling essay or article. For topics and ideas for writing that could be expanded or narrowed, see below.
Washington’s religious life and how it influenced his personal and public life
The men Washington led in war and peace. These might include his officers, (the original members of the Society of the Cincinnati) as well as others who crossed the Atlantic to help us win freedom like Lafayette, Rochambeau, Baron von Steuben, Pulaski, Kosciuszko, Bernardo de Galvez
Important women in Washington’s life: his mother (Mary Ball Washington), first crush at age 16 (Sally Cary Fairfax, aged 18 and new wife of his best friend George William Fairfax), wife (Martha Dandridge Custis Washington – called Patsy her whole life, not “Martha”), adopted daughters (Patsy Custis, Nelly Custis), political confidante (Eliza Powel)
Professions: farmer (his favorite), surveyor (first and made him well to do), soldier (won renown for exploits and his published accounts made him famous and admired here and abroad, especially in London), politician, statesman (member of VA House of Burgesses, president of the Constitutional Convention, President; successful entrepreneur businessman (land speculator and investor, fisherman, distiller, miller – these were his real money-makers; he lost money farming), investor in boarding houses in DC, bought property in Alexandria, some with tenant houses
Innovator: as a farmer, the 16-sided barn with raised floor for the grain to fall through and captured below, rotation of crops and careful cataloging of which crops thrived in which areas, careful livestock breeding , esp. of hunting dogs and mules (the ancestors of the army mule); architect (Mount Vernon mansion has some unusual features)
Important elements of his political and military careers, esp. little known ones like the Fairfax Resolves and the Mount Vernon Conference
His life post-Presidency
Education: lack of formal schooling (Mother’s instruction and 4 years in Fredericksburg under a minister), self-educated first by reading in the Fairfax family’s library and then the many books he bought on a wide variety of topics), left money in his will to Liberty College (renamed Washington College and eventually Washington & Lee University), the Alexandria Academy (he contributed funds to start it, funded scholarships during his lifetime, in his will also left scholarship money for poor boys and girls!), money for a university in the nation’s capital (GWU)
Athlete and sportsman: able swimmer (rare skill in those days, resulted in saving his own life and that of Christopher Gist, his guide), expert horseman, avid fox-hunter who bred dogs and loved them! Also loved his horses! Expert dancer (he was voted the best, Jefferson was second; gentlemen competed at everything! He used some of the first money he earned on dance lessons because that knowledge was essential for a gentleman ) wrestling, throwing (a stone across the Rappahannock at Ferry Farm), foot-racing, broad and high-jumping, etc.
Loved music of all kinds, including ”modern”, which was Haydn (special favorite), Bach and Mozart , march music, opera Ordered the latest music from London for Nelly to play and bought a harpsichord for her Played the violin; in competition, he came in second to Jefferson
Major event(s) and challenges during his Presidency. Relationship with his cabinet members. Domestic and foreign relations challenges. Allies and opponents in Congress. Supreme Court appointments.
Military career: VA militia. Unsuccessful in getting into the British navy due to his mother who refused permission when he was underage. Failed to get commission in regular British army as a result of discrimination against colonials. Service under Gen. Braddock and Gen. Forbes in the Ohio Valley. Highest ranking colonial officer as colonel in charge of all Virginia militias. Appointed Commander-in-Chief of American forces during the Revolution. Major battles. Leadership in battles and struggles with Congress. Keeping the army together. Life in winter camp for officers and men.
Relations with other major figures: George Mason, John Adams, Hamilton, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Patrick Henry, Benedict Arnold
Concern for his image: Peale portraits. Gilbert Stuart (he thought he was a chattering fool, preferred silence so he could think; perhaps that’s another reason his portrait looks a bit stern)
Challenges as president of the Constitutional Convention
Battles: Trenton, Princeton, Brandywine, Saratoga, Yorktown
Winter camp: Valley Forge, the terrible winter that created an army, mandatory vaccination against smallpox for all troops, Martha Washington’s example
The Newburgh Conspiracy
The Whiskey Rebellion
Washington as spymaster, use of codes and other clandestine ways of gathering intelligence about the enemy (The Secret Seven)
Social life in New York and Philadelphia during Washington’s presidency; the precedents set in his administration
(Many thanks to Ellen Tabb of the GWBCC for assembling these ideas!)