George Washington: The Forge of Experience, 1732-1775

By James Thomas Flexner | Go to book overview

CHAPTER
1
Birth of a Hero

IN 1657, the first Washington landed in Virginia. The Wild West was then on the Atlantic seaboard, and John Washington was a turbulent spirit well suited to so violent a world.

Revolution in England had spun off this adventurer whom birth had destined for gentility. Although George Washington himself was to remain ignorant of the transatlantic background of his family, 1 we know that the immigrant's father, the Reverend Lawrence Washington, had enjoyed a rich living in Essex until the Roundheads expelled him for drunkenness. Whether the misfortune was actually due to drink or, as defending High Churchmen insisted, to doctrine, the effect was the same. At the age of about eleven, John was plummeted from affluence to squalor. He completed his break with the gentlemanly life by going to sea, not in the navy but on a merchant vessel as mate and trader.

The chances of cargo carried him at the age of about twenty‐ five to Virginia, where he married Anne Pope, daughter of a prosperous father, and decided to stay. Sued by his captain, he accused the captain of having on the voyage over hanged a woman as a witch. However, John did not appear at the murder trial; he was, he explained, too busy baptizing his first son ( George Washington's grandfather).

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