Friday, June 30, 2006

Flashes from the Past:"He regarded his education as defective..."

He "regarded his education as defective (his formal education ended at age 15). He consciously made up for some of what he did not learn in school through reading and study on his own. Over the years he amassed a large and diverse library, and in his later years he subscribed to several newspapers."

This Flash from the Past lost his father at age 11, and was guided by his older brother to be a land surveyor (he surveyed his brother's turnip garden above - "Survey'd by me"). As a teen, he had trouble with his temper leading a family friend to bemoan, "I wish that I could say that he governs his temper. He is subject to attacks of anger and provocation, sometimes without just cause."

At some point in his late teens, though, he began a campaign of self-improvement, and began reading biographies and histories voraciously, and try to tutor himself in good manners and a more controlled temper. He was very ambitious, but he later admitted he preferred to "let my designs appear from my works than my expression."

Who was this? This was our first Executive-in-Chief, Founding Father George Washington.

We got hooked on learning more about GW since visiting Mount Vernon for the first time this spring. Washington was a tweaker and a genius at management - whether it was inspiring his ragtag army, orchestrating the cooperation of some very difficult personalities in his government, or running his grand estate. He was inspired by the Stoics, and his later command of his outward character would be important in establishing his new country's credibility. He had a vision for our country, and he would inspire generations to come. He was so valuable in dire times because, as David McCullough put it, he had a genius for seeing things as they were, and not as what he wished them to be.

There are more details than we can list about GW, his excellent but clearly micromanaging of Mount Vernon(experimentation with different fertilizers, crop rotation, farm implements and 16-sided threshing barn), numerous architectural tweaks (including faux stone exterior and wood stain), and of course his management of such talented but complex people as Adams, Hamilton, Jefferson, and Madison.

Because we have to get our SENG talks together, we'll plan on signing off for now. If we have time to post something before we go, we'll try to do so - but otherwise we'll be gone for the next 2 weeks in California. We'll be back on the blog July 14th! Have a great July 4th weekend.

George Washington: Surveyor and Mapmaker
George Washington's Mount Vernon - George Washington Biography
George Washington's Rule Book of Civility
Papers of George Washington
George Washington, Farmer

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