TEACHER RESOURCES

Knowing Washington as a farmer and business man clarifies our understanding of his hopes for his young nation’s political and economic future.

As a surveyor, farmer, and investor, Washington was constantly looking for opportunities to harness and manage natural resources and agricultural production for his own economic interest and for the nation and communities he built.

PRIMARY SOURCES

George Washington’s “Compend of Husbandry” Notes

These two pages contain George Washington’s handwritten notes on the 1785 book A New System of Husbandry by Charles Varlo. In these notes, Washington records various agricultural experiments he tried as well as advice and techniques from agricultural writers of his time.

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George Washington to Robert Cary and Co.

In this June 20, 1762 letter to his British creditors, George Washington discusses the difficulty of raising tobacco as a cash crop, his dissatisfaction with the colonial import system, and the trials of raising tobacco as a cash crop.

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Mount Vernon Distillery and Fishery Ledger, 1799-1801

This ledger provides a detailed chronicle of Washington's distilling and fishing operations.

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Surveyor’s Compass

eorge Washington’s first career, as a surveyor for Culpeper County in 1749, introduced him to a skill set he would use throughout his lifetime as he acquired new lands, defended his property boundaries, and divided his land holdings into profitable farms. This “circumferentor” or plain compass aided Washington in completing his surveys.

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Drawing of Mount Vernon

Samuel Vaughan, a wealthy English merchant, visited Mount Vernon in August 1787 and recorded a written description and the earliest known sketch of the estate in his journal. He sent a copy of the sketch to George Washington later that year. This sketch provides incredible insight into how the estate appeared during Washington’s life.

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George Washington to Lund Washington, November 26, 1775

This letter written in the midst of the Siege of Boston details the General’s instructions to his cousin and farm manager, Lund Washington, regarding wages for workers, hospitality to be shown, and precautions against enemy attacks at Mount Vernon.

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Secondary Sources

Learn more about Washington the entrepreneur.

ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS
  • How did citizens in the early republic show their commitment to democratic ideals through different avocations and careers? How did Washington do so as a farmer, investor, and inventor?

  • What role does land play in the American Revolution and defining the United States?

  • How were plantations like Mount Vernon contributors to the 18th century Global Economy?

  • Was George Washington a calculated risk-taker or a reckless gambler?
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