The Life of George Washington
Publication Year: 2012
Within eight years of the death of George Washington in 1799, the first major biography of “the father of his country” was written by John Marshall and published in five volumes. Marshall, who later became Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, was induced to the task by the first President’s nephew, Bushrod Washington. Marshall’s own principal biographer, Albert J. Beveridge, has described The Life of George Washington as “to this day the fullest and most trustworthy treatment of that period from the conservative point of view.” In fact, so significant is the biography that Marshall later executed a one-volume abridgment, first published in 1838 and used widely for generations in American schools and colleges. The twentieth and final version of the abridgement, published in 1849, is the text reproduced in the new Liberty Fund edition of what Charles A. Beard has praised as a “great” and “masterly” biography. The editors’ foreword and notes, together with maps of major battle campaigns not included in the original edition, make this edition especially attractive for classroom use. The Appendices include Washington’s Speech to the Officers of the Army (15 March 1783), Address to Congress on Resigning Commission (23 December 1783), Letter to Congress Transmitting Proposed Constitution (17 September 1787), First Inaugural Address (30 April 1789), and Farewell Address (19 September 1796).
Robert Faulkner is a Professor of Political Science at Boston College.
Paul Carrese is a Professor of Political Science at the United States Air Force Academy.
Published by: Liberty Fund
Title Page, Copyright
Table of Contents
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While there are other good biographies of George Washington, some recent, this Life by Chief Justice John Marshall probably should be read first. It is the first serious biography, appearing within eight years of Washington's death, and its author was himself a statesman of rare judgment who knew the great man and many of his accomplishments. ...
Table of Maps
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Principal Events of Washington's Life
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Note on this Edition
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Part One: Commander in Chief of the Revolution
Chapter 1. "The Favorite Soldier of Virginia": Early Years; the French and Indian War (1732 to 1759)
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George Washington, the third son of Augustine Washington, was born on the 22nd of February, 1732, near the banks of the Potomac, in the county of Westmoreland, in Virginia. His father married Miss Buder, who died in 1728; leaving two sons, Lawrence and Augustine. …
Chapter 2. "The Soldier of America"; Victory at Boston (September 1774 to April 1776)
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Colonel Washington took a decided part against the claims of supremacy asserted by the British parliament; and was elected a member of the first congress. He was soon distinguished as the soldier of America, and placed on all those committees whose duty it was to make arrangements for defence. …
Chapter 3. War in Canada and the North (June 1775 to November 1776)
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In June 1775, General Schuyler1 had been directed to repair to Ticonderoga, to secure the command of the lakes, to take possession of St. Johns and Montreal, if that measure should not be disagreeable to the Canadians, and to pursue such other steps as might conduce to the peace and security of the United Colonies. ...
Chapter 4. War in the South: the Declaration of Independence (November 1775 to July 1776)
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Lord Dunmore, the Governor of Virginia, who was joined by the most active of the disaffected, and by a number of slaves, had collected a small naval force with which he carried on a predatory war, and at length attempted to burn the town of Hampton. ...
Chapter 5. Defeat and the Restoration of "Native Courage": Command in New York (June to September 1776)
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On evacuating Boston, General Howe1 had retired to Halifax, which place he sailed for New York in June. In the latter end of that month, he arrived off Sandy Hook; and on the 3rd and 4th of July his troops were landed on Staten Island. ...
Chapter 6. "Unyielding Firmness": Retreat and Attack in New York and New Jersey (October 1776 to January 1777)
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The armies did not long retain their position on York Island. General Howe determined to gain the rear of the American camp by the New England road, and also to possess himself of the Hudson above Kingsbridge. Having ascertained the practicability of passing the forts on the North river, ...
Chapter 7. The Army and Independence Maintained (January to July 1777)
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The effect of the proclamation published by Lord and General Howe, on taking possession of Jersey, was in a great degree counteracted by the conduct of the invading army. The hope that security was attainable by submission was soon dissipated. The inhabitants were treated rather as conquered rebels than returning friends. ...
Chapter 8. Battle and a Wise Determination to Avoid Battle: The Struggle for Philadelphia (July to September 1777)
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While the British troops were embarking at New York, the utmost exertions were made by General Washington to strengthen the army of the north, which was retreating before Burgoyne. He not only pressed the Governors of the eastern states to reinforce it with all their militia, ...
Chapter 9. A Stubborn Contest in the Middle Colonies (September to December 1777)
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To prevent the co-operation of the fleet with the British army in Philadelphia, works had been erected on Mud island, a low marshy piece of ground near the junction of the Schuylkill with the Delaware, and at Red Bank, on the opposite Jersey shore , which were defended with heavy artillery. …
Chapter 10. Defeat, then Victory, in the North: Ticonderoga, Bennington, Saratoga (November 1775 to November 1777)
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After Sir Guy Carleton had placed his army in winter quarters, General Burgoyne embarked for Europe, to assist in making arrangements for the ensuing campaign.1 The American army, having been formed for one year only, dissolved itself at the expiration of that time. ...
Chapter 11. "The Character of Washington": Preserving Army and Command at Valley Forge (December 1777 to May 1778)
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The army under the immediate command of General Washington, was engaged through the winter in endeavoring to stop the intercourse between Philadelphia and the country. One of the first operations meditated after crossing the Schuylkill, was the destruction of a large quantity of hay, on the islands above the mouth of Darby Creek, ...
Chapter 12. "On His Own Responsibility": A New Army at Monmouth (March to June 1778)
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As the spring opened, several expedients 1 were undertaken by the British. Colonel Mawhood made an incursion into Jersey, at the head of twelve hundred men. Governor Livingston 2 was immediately requested to call out the militia in order to join Colonel Shreeve, whose regiment was detached for the protection of that state. ...
Chapter 13. "Temperate Measures": Disappointment with the French, Stalemate with the British (July to December 1778)
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Early in July, intelligence was received that a powerful French fleet, commanded by the Count D ' Estaing,1 had appeared off Chingoteague inlet, the northern extremity of the coast of Virginia. The Count had sailed from Toulon on the 13th of April, with twelve ships of the line and six frigates, 2 having on board a respectable body of land forces. ...
Chapter 14. Diplomacy; Frontier Attacks; Congress's Grand Plan (June 1778 to February 1779)
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About the last of November, the commissioners appointed to give effect to the late conciliatory acts of Parliament, embarked for Europe.1 Their utmost exertions to accomplish the object of their mission, had been unsuccessful. Great Britain required that the force of the two nations should be united under one common sovereign; ...
Chapter 15. The British Shift the Front: War in Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia (November 1778 to June 1779)
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It being no longer practicable to engage soldiers by voluntary enlistment, and government not daring to force men into the service for three years, or during the war, the vacant ranks were scantily supplied by drafts for nine, twelve, and eighteen months. A great proportion of the troops were discharged in the course of each year; ...
Chapter 16. Near Mutinies and Calming Influence; Skirmishes; the Allies Fail at Savannah (May to December 1779)
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The Barbarities committed by the Indians during the preceding year had added motives of resentment and humanity to those of national interest for employing a large force in the protection of the western frontier. The state governments also took a strong interest in the subject; …
Chapter 17. Disasters and Misjudgments in South Carolina (January to August 1780)
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Admiral Arbuthnot arrived off Savannah on the 31st of January. One of his transports had been brought into Charleston harbor, on the 23rd of that month; and the prisoners gave the first certain intelligence that the expedition from New York was destined against the capital of South Carolina. …
Chapter 18. Governing Without Teeth: Mutiny; Failures of Supply; a French Force Stalls (January to September 1780)
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While disasters thus crowded on each other in the South, the commander-in-chief was surrounded with difficulties which threatened calamities equally distressing. His earnest requisitions for men to supply the places of those whose terms of service had expired, were not complied with; …
Chapter 19. Arnold's Treason: Faction and Army Policy in Congress (August to December 1780)
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The great military services of General Arnold had secured to him a high place in the opinion of the army, and of his country. Not having recovered from his wounds, and having large accounts to settle, which required leisure, he was, on the evacuation of Philadelphia, appointed to the command in that place. ...
Chapter 20. "Abilities, Fortitude, and Integrity": Greene and His Lieutenants in the South (August 1780 to April 1781)
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In the south, Lord Cornwallis found it necessary to suspend the new career of conquest on which he had intended to enter. In addition to the difficulty of obtaining food, a temper so hostile to British interests had appeared in South Carolina as to require great part of his force to subdue the spirit of insurrection against his authority. …
Chapter 21. Mutiny Parried and Quelled; the "Miserably Defective" Structure of Congress; Lafayette Checks Cornwallis (November 1780 to July 1781)
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The evacuation of Portsmouth by Leslie afforded Virginia but a short interval of repose. On the 30th of December, a fleet of transports, having on board between one and two thousand men, commanded by General Arnold, anchored in Hampton roads, and proceeded next day up James 1781 river, under convoy of two small ships of war. ...
Chapter 22. "The Total Incompetency of the Political System"; Victory at Yorktown (May to December 1781)
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The total incompetency of the political system which had been adopted by the United States, to their own preservation, became every day more apparent. Each state seemed fearful of doing too much, and of taking upon itself a larger portion of the common burden than was borne by its neighbor. …
Chapter 23. The Deep South Regained; the Prudence of Greene (April 1781 to January 1782)
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When Lord Cornwallis entered North Carolina, the command of the more southern states was committed to Lord Rawdon.1 For the preservation of his power, a line of posts, slightly fortified, had been continued from Charleston, by the way of Camden and Ninety-Six, to Augusta, in Georgia. ...
Chapter 24. Peace; Pacifying the Army; the "Virtuous Moderation" to Bid Farewell (December 1781 to December 1783)
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The splendid success of the allied arms in Virginia, and the great advantages obtained still further south, produced no disposition in General Washington to relax those exertions which might yet be necessary to secure the great object of the contest. He was detained in Philadelphia by the request of Congress, ...
Part Two: Father and President of the New Republic
Chapter 25. Private Statesmanship: Agriculture, Improvements, Union (1783 to 1785)
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When an individual, long in possession of great power, and almost unlimited influence, retires from office with alacrity, and resumes the character of a private citizen with pleasure, the mind is gratified in contemplating the example of virtuous moderation, and dwells upon it with approving satisfaction. …
Chapter 26. Political Imbecility; Constituting a Government (1784 to 1789)
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While the friends of the national government were making these unavailing efforts to invest it with a revenue which might enable it to preserve the national faith, many causes concurred to prepare the public mind for some great and radical change in the political system of America. …
Chapter 27. Concilating the Public: Election, Inauguration, and First Appointments (1789)
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The election of General Washington to the office of chief magistrate of the United States, was announced to him at Mount Vernon, on the 14th of April, 1789. Accustomed to respect the wishes of his fellow-citizens, he did not think himself at liberty to decline an appointment conferred upon him by the suffrage of an entire people. …
Chapter 28. Defense, Finance, Foreign Affairs-and the First "Systematic Opposition" (1790 to 1791)
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In his speech, which was delivered from the chair of the Vice-President, after congratulating Congress on the adoption of the constitution by the important state of North Carolina, and on the prosperous aspect of American affairs, he proceeded to recommend certain great objects of legislation to their more especial consideration.1 ...
Chapter 29. Democratic Rebellion; Indian War; the French Model (March 1791 to March 1793)
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More ample means for the protection of the frontier having been placed March under the control of the executive, the immediate attention of the President was directed to this interesting object. Major-General Arthur St. Clair, governor of the territory north-west of the Ohio, …
Chapter 30. Reelection; Furor over Neutrality; the Extraodrinary Citizen Genêt (November 1792 to December 1793)
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The term for which the President and Vice-President were elected being to expire on the third of March, the attention of the public had been directed to the choice of persons who should fill those offices . ...
Chapter 31. "The Path of Duty": Averting War, Maintaining Independence (December 1793 to June 1794)
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A malignant fever, believed to be infectious, had severely afflicted the city of Philadelphia, and dispersed the officers of government. Although the fear of contagion was not entirely dispelled, such was the expectation that important communications would be made by the executive, ...
Chapter 32. Executive Vigor Confronts War, Rebellion, and Treaty-making (January 1794 to June 1796)
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That the most material of those measures on which the two great parties in the United States were divided might be presented in one unbroken view, some transactions have been passed over which will now be noticed. ...
Part Three: The First of Americans
Chapter 33. Last Farewell: Final Duty; Legacy and Character (1796 to 1799)
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The confidential friends of the President had long known his fixed purpose to retire from office at the end of his second term, and the people generally suspected it. Those who dreaded a change of system in changing the person of the chief magistrate, manifested an earnest desire to avoid this hazard. ...
Appendix A: Note on Further Reading and Editorial Sources
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Appendix B: Important Writings of Washington
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Page Count: 542
Publication Year: 2012