George Washington: The Forge of Experience, 1732-1775

By James Thomas Flexner | Go to book overview

CHAPTER
2
Termagant and Brother

AMONG THE many changes dictated by his father's death was the abandonment of the plan that George Washington would, like his half brothers, go to school across the ocean. Had he sailed, would the history of the United States have been different?

In his later years, Washington opposed sending American youths to Europe to be educated. He argued that they imbibed principles "unfriendly to republican government" and "the rights of man." 1 But when his father died, such considerations meant nothing to George: he only saw that his environment had shrunk like a millpond after the dam breaks. Sixteen years later he wrote of "the longing desire which for many years I have had of visiting" England. 2

The father left more than 10,000 acres in seven or more tracts and forty-nine slaves, but his estate was divided many ways. Augustine had been enough of an Englishman to believe in at least modified primogeniture: Lawrence got among other bequests Epsewasson, which he was to rechristen Mount Vernon after his beloved admiral, and, with a few small provisos, the iron mine. Next in value were the bequests to Augustine Jr., which included George's birthplace. George's share sounded more impressive than it was: Ferry Farm, which was far from fertile, half of an unimportant tract of 4360 acres, ten slaves,

-18-

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