Skip to comments.Gen. George Washington; the Original One Percenter?
Posted on 07/04/2012 7:59:45 AM PDT by Kaslin
VENICE, Pa. -- To the 13 families living in this Western Pennsylvania village, Gen. George Washington was an arrogant, elite Virginian who dared to claim ownership of the land where they had built log cabins, grown crops and conducted their lives for nearly 15 years.
To them, he was the first true 1-percenter, local historian Clayton Kilgore said, recalling Occupy protesters description of wealthy Americans.
Washington represented everything they despised, according to Kilgore.
These were Scotsmen who identified with the Covenanters, those Gaelic warriors who opposed King Charles tax policies, he said. They held anything associated with government in utter contempt. Based on the standards of that time, when great land ownership meant great wealth, Washington indeed was very rich quite possibly the wealthiest man in the fledgling nation.
He owned nearly 60,000 acres, spread out between Western Pennsylvania and present-day West Virginia. This particular tract contained approximately 3,000 acres given to him by the British for his French and Indian War service.
Of all things dear to him, Washington loved his youthful craft as a surveyor and its role in helping him to evolve into a gentleman landowner.
You can imagine his surprise, in the late summer of 1784, when he rode out to survey his property and found squatters permanently settled on the land.
Washington feared the domino effect they would have, explained Kilgore, who runs the David Bradford House in nearby Washington, Pa.
He envisioned this land as critical to the new nation, with investors building roads and canals, and commerce flourishing with trade, crops and development, Kilgore said.
Instead, he met a band of hardheaded Scots-Irish Presbyterians, led by David Reed, who had no intention of leaving his land. They had built a church, homes and lives here, and looked down their noses at this elite truant-landlord.
He really didnt care much for the rabble, Kilgore said. He thought they had no regard for his grueling time spent commanding the Revolutionary War, which kept him away from his lands, and he was right they thought very little of him.
What ensued was a verbal showdown between Washington and the squatters in the gristmill that once stood in the village. Neither party would back down.
Washington offered them choices: Pay back rent, lease the property for 999 years, or leave.
They said no to all three options.
So much for negotiating with those who have no claim to your property in the first place.
The situation back then really does remind one of todays Occupy movement, Kilgore agreed. Washington was about as popular among those squatters as a modern-day Wall Street banker is among todays Occupy crowd, he said.
Eventually, the two sides met again; the squatters agreed without conceding Washingtons ownership to buy the land from him. Yet the price Washington demanded was too steep for them; they refused to pay and colorfully rejected his claim of ownership.
No wonder that, years later, Washington sent 13,000 troops to quell fewer than 500 angry farmers, when this same breed of Scotsmen rebelled over a federal excise tax levied on whiskey.
Washington, by then president, wanted to make sure they got the message, said Kilgore, official historian at the home built in 1762 by whiskey rebel Bradford.
Washingtons land dispute eventually went before Pennsylvanias Supreme Court. The case dragged on for two years before he finally won.
He generously offered to allow the 13 squatter families to remain on their plantations without paying back rent, but insisted they pay going forward.
They would have none of it and moved on, Kilgore said.
Along state Route 980, all that is left of this confrontation is a historical marker badly in need of repair.
On that spot, an enterprising Virginia gentleman-general foresaw all the potential of this country on its Western frontier, not far from the rivers that converge into the mighty Ohio, and fought to keep what rightfully was his.
Good history lesson. Thank you for sharing.
July 2, 1776 Birth of the American Republic Begins: New York Abstains, John Dickinson is Absent
I’m guessing he got along with his legitimate neighbors just fine as long as there were no other disputes.
Most of my neighbors are much wealthier but we all get along fine since no one is trying to claim someone else’s is theirs. I also have a longstanding policy of not buying or selling to neighbors.
Yep; probably shot his share of native Americans too. Damn that evil bastid GW!!! /s
Before the Rev War, he was a scheming land speculator who associated with some of the biggest land jobbers of that time and even cheated his F&I war veterans out of their land for pennies on the dollar (in today's terms). He violated British law by sending his agents, most notably William Crawford and George Croghan west of the 1763 Proclamation Line to illegally survey prime agricultural land from Pittsburgh to Louisville. He and the others (including his friends Andrew and Charles Lewis, William Preston, and even the royal governor Lord Dunmore of Virginia) wanted to either stake it out for new plantations for themselves or sell it through land companies to make huge profits. So, most people do not realize it, but Washington had a vested economic interest in overthrowing British rule in America and opening up the western lands so that his patents could be legalized. The Rev War of course put his land jobbing on hold, but after he retired from the Continental Army in 1783, he turned his attention back to his claims. Hence, this story.
All of this is documented in Washington's published correspondence (and that of his business partners), but no one bothers to read any of it except hard core Washington researchers (like me).
Yeah, interesting, except the Salena Zito’s attempt to find any parallels between George Washington and Wall Street Bankers and the Occupy Wall Street protesters and the people who were trying to take George Washington’s land grant from him, fails utterly.
Now we find out........
You are welcome.
In his correspondence from the period, he complained bitterly about the Proclamation Line and secretly planned to subvert it.
For reference see Letters from George Washington to William Crawford, September 21 and 29, 1767, in C.W. Butterfield, ed., The Washington-Crawford Letters. Being the Correspondence Between George Washington and William Crawford: From 1767 to 1781. (Cincinnati: Robert Clark and Co., 1877)
The Covenanters begin in the reign of Charles I but the resistance continued after the Restoration of 1660. Sir Walter Scott's novel Old Mortality deals with the Covenanters in Ayrshire after the Restoration. I think things were finally resolved when William III extended toleration to all Protestants in 1689.
It certainly doesn’t sound like the land was “rightfully” his.
No, it wasn't. The Proclamation Line was a quite reasonable and perfectly LEGAL boundary established to keep the British colonists and the Indians in the western backcountry separated until such time as the Royal Government Board of Trade could negotiate a final land settlement with the Indian tribes and set up a permanent boundary.
Remember that the colonies were still under British law in 1763 and the colonists considered themselves as British---they weren't angry at that point, but were relieved that the British Army had defeated the French and their Indian allies.
In the aftermath of that war, there was a lot of uncertainty in the "middle ground" between colonial America and Indian country. So the British struggled to come up with a fair land policy that would satisfy both sides. Believe it or not, King George was trying to do the right thing. He had to since the Indians, unlike the French, really had not been defeated yet---that would not happen until the Rev War and the later Indian wars of the 1790s through the War of 1812.
So, the Proclamation Line was hardly arbitrary but quite deliberately surveyed and laid out along the Appalachian Mountains and the rivers and waterways which served as natural boundaries. After Pontiac's rebellion, which scared the British, the Indians honored their agreement with the British, but colonists like Washington and his land speculator cronies did not.
The primary sources don't lie---it's all laid out in Washington's correspondence and the Board of Trade Records in the UK Public Record Office if you care enough about this subject to do some research.
Washington who started out as an orphan was a self-made man who made his own career at a time when there were few opportunities for a backwoods landless farmer. He learned horsemanship and surveying. These were two very useful skills at the time. He gained the confidence of wealthy and successful Virginians. He gained a command during the French and Indian War.
Washington foresaw the growth of the country and the value of land in these areas. He founded the Potomac Company which later became the C&O Canal. He negotiated with the powerful families in Virginia and Maryland to help bring this about. He married Martha Custas a widow who was wealthy when he was not to help assure his financial security.
I'm not sure he “cheated” his F&I war veterans. Cash was very scarce at the time and undeveloped land was extremely plentiful. Values are not so easy to determine today.
The fact that Washington's encounter with the squatters on his land led to his putting down the Whiskey Rebellion so forcefully is an interesting theory. I'm not certain this is the case but it is an interesting point.
Have you ever been to Mt. Vernon? It is a great place to visit and gives insight into how Washington lived.
I hope the king put down a pillow for your knees at the very least.
The ridiculous adjectives you use in your posts are sufficient to destroy your credibility.
Or, perhaps you are just bored and want to bait some Freepers into responding to your silly posts on Independence Day.
No, in one of the Washington-Crawford letters I referenced above, he clearly stated to his buddy Crawford what he wanted to do and to be sure to keep it a secret.
So, George Washington was an infallible man who was incapable of self-serving motives?
And I guess you didn't bother to read any of the Washington-Crawford letters from the 1760s, which I so kindly linked for you and reveal Washington's less than honorable schemes?
And I suppose that you think that the Indians, who still outnumbered the colonists and had guns, courtesy of the French, would have rolled over if the British had not tried to do anything to resolve the boundary problem?
Yeah, I sure have. I spent several years of my life research and writing about Washington, and so I've been to all the historic sites associated with him.
The man was human and lived in a difficult and dangerous world in which a certain amount of ruthlessness was required to get ahead.
He also set a precedent that has been followed by FedGov for all subsequent insurrections, or movements that are treated as insurrections in D.C.: crush 'em, price no object.
Washington was certainly ambitious. He had to be to reach the position he did at the time given his humble background. I think ruthless is the wrong word. He was strong and got his way. But he was also principled and trustworthy. He inspired loyalty and respect from almost everyone he worked with throughout his life. Compared to the dishonest politicians of today Washington was a model of integrity. The most accurate description of Washington is “The Indispensable Man”.