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Chapter Two. The Unlikely Success of a Provincial Surveyor: George Washington Finds Fame in the American Frontier, 1749–1754

Jason E. Farr

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

Place Americas » Northern America

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1700-1799

Key-Topics exploration, travel

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781444331035.2012.00004.x


In a eulogy given on February 4, 1800, George Blake exalted George Washington's possession of “power without ambition, glory without arrogance, fame without infatuation” ( Eulogies and Orations on the Life and Death of General George Washington , (1800) , 103). People who had gained so much political or military power usually did not give it up voluntarily. As president of the new United States, Washington intentionally embodied the republican ideal of enlightened public service, especially when he left the presidency after only two terms. Despite his later renown as a statesman, however, most accounts of George Washington's life begin with his military campaigns during the Seven Years War. But in a world of patronage and privilege, how could a middling-class provincial Virginian have become the larger-than-life historical figure we know today? Washington benefited from the patronage of leading land barons, but it was his youthful ambition as a surveyor, messenger, and quasi-diplomat in the American frontier that laid the foundation for his unlikely rise to power. Land was a source of wealth and power in British America as well as in the early republic. Major land barons like Richard Henderson in North Carolina and Kentucky; Henry Laurens in South Carolina; and Richard Henry Lee in Virginia gained political power during the colonial and revolutionary eras because of their vast ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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