History, legends, myths

A View of George Washington on Presidents Day

Well here it is Presidents Day 2015. About a week before George Washington’s birthday February 22, 1732 or a week after his birthday February 11, 1731, depending on whether you are using the Julian or Gregorian Calendar. Great Britain adopted the Gregorian Calendar around 1752. In any case George died On December 14, 1799. Legend has it that our first President was quite the ladies man and that the First Lady Martha was not amused by this and locked him out of the house on a dark and stormy night in December. George took sick and died two days later. More conventional historians who insist on the Truth, whatever that is, say that George went out to survey the plantation in snow, hail, and freezing rain? He caught cold a day or so later and requested his Overseer to bloodlet out a half pint of blood. Several hours later the doctors arrived and let out some more blood. When they had finished more than half of George’s blood had been let. He doubtless went into hypovolemic shock. Stage 4 hypovolemic shock is defined as more than 40% blood loss. As Wiki says survival is extremely unlikely. Martha burned all her correspondence with George a couple of days later.

Well you can believe what you want here. Do you believe the one about the Cherry Tree?  A philandering husband always tells his wife the truth, right? Wiki is silent on this issue. The Huffington Post is not.   wrote that George, the First in War, The First in Peace was also First with the Ladies. His research turned up at least nine women to whom the term “Washington Slept Here” applied. Over the years I’ve seen a lot more than nine of those signs myself. Riding out to survey the plantation in the midst of a winter storm is difficult to credit as well. George was a red head. He didn’t wear a whig, he powdered his hair. At this point I should change the subject. I would want to be considered a profiler.

In his early years Washington was a surveyor. Probably a land speculator too. No harm in that he did the leg work. His knowledge of the land and topography served him well later in his military career. One of the places he surveyed, and I believe this, is Natural Arch in Rockbridge County VA. Washinton had an office in Winchester VA. His surveying tools and journals were on display there last time I visited. This is about 125 miles from Rockbridge. Not far across the Valley as the crow flies, if it has vittles. I’ve been to Natural Bridge. Carved into the rock on the northern side are the initials G.W. plus a surveyor’s cross. The Commonwealth of VA says this is a hoax. I don’t know. The graffiti is about 12 ft up, just above the dark part of the rock.  Washington is also said to have thrown a silver dollar over this wonder.

Natural Bridge, Rockbridge Cty VA

Washington supposedly liked to throw money away. There is a similar story about his throwing a quarter dollar across the Delaware. We are speaking of Spanish Dollares D’Oro here. Eight pieces to the dollar. Two bits is a quarter. These legends are bunko! Washington was a meticulous bookkeeper he even recorded his gambling debts. He preferred to use other peoples money too. I am uncertain were his expense accounts were ever finally negotiated with the Continental Congress or the Congress of the USA. but he was made a general in 1775 and they were still fighting about it after he became president in 1789.

Well February is African American History Month so here goes: Washington had many sets of false teeth contrary to popular belief they were not made of wood. Hippopotamus Ivory and Human teeth “purchased from Negros” Neither apparently worked well. He ended up using Laudanum for the pain. I can relate to that although I abhor pain medications.

Washington had a black Chef at Mount Vernon, Name of Hercules. He was a slave. Hercules was the Chef at Mount Vernon. He was described by G. W. Parke Custis as “a celebrated artiste … as highly accomplished a proficient in the culinary art as could be found in the United States.” Washington was unhappy with the cook at the “White House”, in New York City, and brought Hercules to the “White House” in Philadelphia in November 1790. He was the walk and talk of the town; quite the dandy he had a gold topped swagger stick which he used when purchasing groceries  at the local markets. At this time Philadelphia was not only the Nations Capitol but its most thriving seaport. The finest foods from around the globe made their was to Philadelphia markets and Hercules made sure he had first dibs. The fine markets in Philadelphia today are a legacy of this African-American slave. Hercules and his son eventually escaped to freedom. Washington said “absconded”. Accounts differ on this. Some say he escaped on Washington’s final day in office as president. Some say they absconded from Mt Vernon on Washington’s 65 birthday. IDK what is the case. Hercules and son were never heard from again. Washington arranged for his slaves to be manumitted after his death.

I find it somewhat strange that Hercules remained in servitude while serving the president in Philadelphia. The Liberty bell was first officially rung in Philadelphia in 1757, I think. It had to be recast three times before its official tolling. The inscription on the Liberty Bell reads: “Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof”. The meaning of this was that slavery was no longer legal or binding in the Commonwealth of PA. Actual legislation to this end was started in 1771. I learned this from my nephew Nate Martin when he was 11 years old. He was home schooled!

George Washington ordered General John Neville to Suppress the Whiskey Rebellion over the Alleghenies. “The Whiskey Tax” was the cause of this conflict. After Washington left office he contracted with James Anderson to set up a whisky Distllery 1797. Six hundred gallons, sold at good profit. George Washington had a large distillery installed in 1797-1798.In 1799, the year of Washington’s death, the distillery produced nearly 11,000 gallons, making it the largest whiskey distillery in America at the time. He was the only founding Father to Distill Whiskey. I’ll Drink to that!

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