While the General's extensive papers (>30 volumes) has been kept at the University of Virginia and can be accessed online here, this is the first collection of the books he had in his library over the years. Praise be to the Mount Vernon Ladies!
While Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton and Adams (among others) are always praised for their brilliance, it is rather Washington's character and courage that are universally acknowledged. I believe the General's wisdom and intelligence receive too little praise.
Why is this? I believe there are several reasons: first, although his older (half) brothers were sent to England to complete schooling, young George's father died when he was 11, and he had to remain in the colonies to help mother with the farm and other family business (they owned an iron mine). While he did get his surveyor's certification at William & Mary when just a teenager, his formal education was lacking compared to the above-mentioned Founders who had degrees from William & Mary, Princeton, Columbia and Harvard.
Second, he was a man of action more than words. And, associated with this fact is his self-consciousness about the state of his mouth (his bad teeth). He was very uncomfortable about speaking in public and avoided doing that.
And a third reason is that his character and courage outdid any other trait he may have had that was critical for the Founding of this great Republic.
But what is the evidence that he was indeed smart--even brilliant? Well, it's hard to imagine his history of decision making without seeing his inherent smarts. Whether it related to Mount Vernon or his carrying out the RevWar, he learned by experience--quite quickly--what he had to do to improve.
Further, he ran a complex and multi-pronged spy network during the war that required knowing the measure of a man (and woman) and playing chess with the Loyalists and the Brits. Running spies traditionally takes extraordinary intelligence.
His innovations in farming techniques (crop rotation) were more advanced than almost any other Virginia planter. And finally, this reproduction of his library helps prove the point.
My personal favorite portrait--after Battle of Princeton. Great smug attitude.
The RevWar/Colonial History/General Washington ping list
And only half in jest, consider this:
Wow! Thanks for the ping Pharmboy!
Thanks so much for the ping, Pharmboy! Great article...can’t wait to go visit Mount Vernon and the Library!