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Chapter Eight. “What Manner of Man I Am”: The Political Career of George Washington Before the Revolution

Taylor Stoermer

Subject History » Political History
Imperial, Colonial, and Postcolonial History » Colonial History

Place Americas » Northern America

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1700-1799

Key-Topics political theory

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781444331035.2012.00010.x


Most historians of George Washington's life and times traditionally give scant attention to his political career before the American Revolution. Washington's “undramatic life” ( Freeman (1948–57) 3:ix), as one prominent historian put it, between the day he resigned his Virginia militia commission and his acceptance of the post of Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army seems to tell us very little about the making of the soldier and statesman who would become the indispensable man of the American Republic. Although his political life formally began with his election to the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1758, Washington does not cut much of a figure in the public affairs of the period. He called his service in the House, when he attended, “tiresome” (GWP, Colonial , 9:38) and appears to have skipped much of the mundane business that dominated the legislature's schedule. Not until 1769 does he seem to have taken a real interest in the growing patriot opposition to parliament's ostensible encroachments on American rights, and scarcely thereafter until the passage of the Coercive Acts in 1774 and his election as a delegate to the Continental Congress. The journals of the House of Burgesses show us that he proposed no major bills, gave no memorable speeches, and registered little impact on the committees to which he was assigned. Like scores of his contemporaries who were major ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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