He is one of the most beloved figures in American history. His portrait is in schools across the country. He was a man of many talents. During his lifetime, he was a surveyor, farmer, military leader, and the first President of the United States under the Constitution.
He saved the Revolution, and became the father of his country. He was also a man of passion, who had a sense of duty and honor. He even wrote his philosophy of what a man of his times should be like. On December 14, 1799, George Washington died of a serious illness that started out as a sore throat. The year 1999 marked the bicentennial of his death.
Shortly after Washington's death, biographers began to write about his life and accomplishments. These early biographers, beginning with the multi volume work by John Marshall elevated his stature and importance to history on a grand scale. Other biographies, like Parson Weems, Life of Washington, elevated him to the status of a biblical saint. Still, other biographies have become classics in their own right.
Located on the Early America web site, the biography written by David Ramsay, who was a contemporary of Washington is a fine example.
Even Mark Twain wrote a brief biographical sketch on Washington's life in his first book, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County and Other Sketches (New York: C. H. Webb, 1867). You can read it from the Mark Twain guide site on About.com. Your guide is Jim Zwick.
Papers and Letter books
George Washington was a constant letter writer. Fortunate for us today, we can read his correspondence and other material. It is through this material that you can learn how Washington thought and what he passionately believed in.
The George Washington Papers located at the University of Virginia contains fine examples of his letters to various individuals. In addition, the online exhibit, A Concert in Mourning, which is a commemoration of the bicentennial of his death, is located here. It may take awhile to download these pages on a slow connection.
The Library of Congress web site contains the letterbooks of George Washington while he was Commander in Chief of the Continental Army during the Revolution. This is series 3 of an 8 part series. Among the collection, you will find besides his letterbooks, commonplace books, diaries, journals, financial account books, military records, reports, and notes accumulated by Washington from 1741 through 1799.
Learn more about George Washington and his contributions to history, by checking out these excellent sites.
- The Apotheosis of George Washington
This site is a study of Washington and how biographers and painters have elevated him to a high icon of almost religious proportions. This site also has an essay on his morals, a biography, and more.
- The Surprising George Washington
From the Prologue: Quarterly of the National Archives, you can read about Washington's life and his elevation in status to almost mythical proportions, in this article by historian Richard Norton Smith.
- The Internet Public Library
This web site has information and resources on Washington during his years as President. It includes information about his presidential cabinet, and notable events that took place while he was in office. You will also find links to other resources about George Washington.