8 Facts They Didn’t Teach You About George Washington

8 Facts They Didn’t Teach You About George Washington

In honor of Presidents Day, I thought I’d share with you eight surprising things I’ve learned about our first President, George Washington. I’ve mentioned before on social media about how he is one of my biggest heroes. As such, I’ve devoted many hours to reading about his life. He was a driven, self-made man and a great leader. His biggest flaw was that he was a slave-owner. However, despite this troubling transgression of human rights, he still possessed many admirable qualities. This article isn’t meant to extol Washington’s virtues or castigate him for his vices. I hope, however, that it humanizes him a little more and draws you closer to knowing the man that, as much as any, helped found our republic.

1. Our First President Did Not Like People Touching Him

An early story, probably apocryphal, said that one man goaded another to give George Washington a friendly slap on the back and ask him how it was going. Washington, the story goes, glared in silent rage at the offending individual.

While this story’s authenticity is doubted, there is no doubt that our first President did not like to be touched. At levees held at the first executive mansion on Cherry Street in Manhattan, President Washington often held a ceremonial sword in his right hand so as to not have to shake hands.

2. George Washington Was In Love With Another Woman When He Married Martha Custis

Right up until his wedding to the widower Martha Dandridge Custis, he wrote letters to a woman he had known since childhood: Sally Fairfax. In the letters, Washington was careful to never explicitly state his feelings for the married Sally Fairfax. However, you don’t have to reach into them very much to understand his deep affection for his childhood friend.

The coquettish Sally never returned Washington’s amorous feelings. However, upon her death in London many years later, these “love letters” were discovered by her children. Having kept the letters for decades, she must have treasured them very much.

3. He Did Not Like People to Speak to Him Informally

Just as giving George Washington a friendly slap on the back was off limits, so was speaking casually with him. He preferred people address him with whatever title he carried at the time. Once he became the commanding general of the Continental Army, people would address him as “Your Excellency” and refer to him as “His Excellency.”

This rigid formality created an environment where he commanded a tremendous amount of respect among his peers. In fact, people admired him tremendously, but not many people loved him. He was simply too stiff to earn people’s outright affection. Washington’s stand-offish nature would certainly prevent him from finding success in modern-day politics.

4. George Washington Was a Spendthrift

Today, when we think of Washington or his home at Mt. Vernon, we imagine a genteel, wealthy Virginia planter. Washington was successful in creating an appearance of wealth. However, he was frequently in dire financial straights. Surprisingly, Washington had to borrow a large sum of money so that he could afford traveling to Manhattan for his inauguration.

Washington, like many Virginia planters at the time, was land rich but cash poor. He would regularly berate his business partners in London for not fetching a high enough price for his crops. He also complained about the overpriced merchandise they sent back from London. Surprisingly for such a wise man, Washington never accepted blame or responsibility for his monetary travails. He’d blame drought, pests, or crooked business people, but never himself. He also never slowed down in his profligate spending.

5. Ceremonial Duties Were the Bane of Washington’s Existence

As many politicians can attest, ceremonial functions can be a drag. Washington especially hated them. He was America’s first superstar and therefore found them almost unavoidable. Everywhere he went, people honored him with banquets, celebrations, and dances. As he approached a town while traveling, the town’s leaders rode out to greet him. Sometimes, they sent a ceremonial team of cavalry to escort him into town. Frequently, the town planned a departing ceremony as well for the next morning. These constant parades and showers of attention were a thorn in Washington’s side for most of his life.

Washington bypassed towns when he could. To dodge an early morning ceremony, he rose before dawn and slipped out before the town stirred awake. Despite his slipperiness, he never fully escaped the loving embrace of his countrymen.

6. Washington Was America’s First Spymaster

Washington ran a vast array of spies who reported on enemy troop movements, morale, supplies, and more. He was wise enough to convince the Congress to dedicate a substantial amount of money for the payment of spies for their services, even when guns, blankets, and clothing were in short supply for his regular troops.

7. George Washington Was “Only” 6′ Tall

Many history books refer to Washington as being at least 6′ 2″ in height. The most likely source of this misinformation was the improper measurement of his corpse upon his death. Numerous records survive of Washington’s detailed instructions to London tailors. In all of them, he describes his height as being 6 foot. As meticulous as Washington was, it is better to believe his correspondence than his doctor’s notes. Being 6 feet in height, he would have towered over most men of his day. He certainly was tall, just not six feet, two inches tall.

Washington had very odd dimensions for a man of his size: his head was small, his shoulders narrow, his hips and thighs very wide. His measurements were so peculiar that his London tailors didn’t always trust them. Sometimes, they would make his clothing as they thought his measurements must be instead of how he supplied them. This would result in a scornful letter making its way from tidewater Virginia, across the Atlantic, to his London tailors.

8. Washington’s Mother Was an Oddball, And May Have Even Been a Tory

Washington had great respect for his mother. However, it is doubtful that he loved her very much. Mary Ball Washington always resented her son for “leaving her” to pursue glory in battle or to lead our young nation. This would be the cause of a strained relationship that would last her entire life.

Strangers would sometimes comment to her, upon learning of who she was, that she must be very proud of His Excellency, the General, or His Excellency, the President. “His Excellency!” she would scoff and then complain about how the only thing her son had done was neglect her. Also, many people reported hearing her make comments that lead them to suspect she was loyal to the King of England.

Dothan-Ashford Trail Routes Proposed

Dothan-Ashford Trail Routes Proposed

At today’s County Commission meeting, Kim Meeker updated the Commission on the research he has done regarding the proposed Dothan-Ashford Trail. The trail, when completed, will allow recreational bicyclists, runners, and walkers the opportunity to enjoy outdoor recreation and exercise without worrying so much about automobiles.

The most desired route will run along Highway 84 to roughly Sanitary Dairy Road, where it will then follow the existing railroad. The alternative plan will primarily use Glen Lawrence Road until it gets to Broadway in Ashford.

Let me know if you have any comments regarding either route.

Based on current feedback, our the most desired route looks to follow Highway 84 from ACOM to Sanitary Dairy Road. There, it will hop on the railroad right-of-way and travel to the depot in Ashford, where it will terminate.
The alternative route will follow Cowarts Road to Glen Lawrence Road. There it will follow Glen Lawrence to Broadway and will terminate at the Depot in Ashford.

I’ve love to hear your feedback. Let me know what thoughts you have using the comments below. Thank you!

Do you have low water pressure in the Wicksburg/Bay Springs Area?

Do you have low water pressure in the Wicksburg/Bay Springs Area?

I’ve received a few calls about people receiving low water pressure from the City of Dothan. Please help me research this issue by completing the following form if you:

  • Live in the Wicksburg/Bay Springs area
  • Buy water from the City of Dothan
  • Experience inadequate water pressure

An Ode to 2021 & My December Setlist

An Ode to 2021 & My December Setlist

Thank goodness that this is the final month of 2020! Hopefully, nothing major is in store for this month other than our annual Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations. Of course, if 2020 has been working its way towards a grand finale, this is the month where it must happen. But I’m remaining optimistic and am going to believe the end of 2020 will be anti-climactic.

▶️ One Audiobook to Press Play On

The Making of the Atomic Bomb is, by far, the greatest audiobook I’ve ever heard. From the author’s poetic description of the machinery of war to his many-page description of what happens within the first few milliseconds of an atomic bomb’s detonation, the book–and audiobook–are a masterpiece of history and storytelling.

📙 What I’m Reading

I’m currently reading The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell. The first lesson really drives home the importance of developing your leadership abilities. In “The Law of the Lid,” Maxwell points out that your ability to be successful is dependent upon your leadership ability. No one can do everything themselves. But for people to follow you, you must be a leader. The remainder of the book is dedicated towards improving your ability to lead others.

🎶 What I’m Listening To

A group that occupies many tracks on my playlist is a band called Bleachers. Founded by a member of the band Fun, the melodies are similar in some ways to the songs that I grew up to in the 90’s. There are no bridges filled with rap lyrics, neither is there much computer-generated sound effects, just great artists playing great music accompanied by outstanding lyrics.

👍 Why I’m Optimistic About the Future

Sure, our nation cycles through great leaders and those that lead us astray. Emergencies come and go. However, we should remember that the media makes a profit by spinning stories to make people go crazy so we will continue to consume their content. But here is one reason why I’m optimistic that, in the grand scheme of time, things are actually getting better:

In the 1980’s we had lawn darts. People actually thought it was a great idea to give kids foot-long metal javelins to toss around the yard for fun. Oh, and in the 1980’s one wore seatbelts!

In the 1990’s, experience had taught us that lawn darts were a bad idea and that these things called seatbelts actually save lives. But we still tossed babies across chasms in the earth to get that perfect picture needed for a magazine (yes, this actually happened).

Twenty or thirty years from now, we will look back at today and remember all the dumb things we did. But at least we aren’t impaling children with lawn darts or hurling infants across gaps in the earth’s surface!

Goodbye to 2020. Bring on 2021!

Northwest Arkansas Trip

Northwest Arkansas Trip

Recently, I travelled with a group to the Bentonville/Fayetteville area in northwest Arkansas. The purpose of the trip was to research the area’s embracement of the arts and how the movement correlates to their momentous economic growth and stellar education systems. The trip was very transformational as I learned about how the arts impact quality of life and also about how to be successful as a rural community in middle-America. Here are my immediate takeaways.