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Old December 7th, 2009, 07:43 PM   #1
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Who was Washington Influenced by?


I've done quite a bit of research on George Washington, but I never found quite what I was looking for. Specifically, what I need to know is whether or not he was influenced by an Age of Enlightenment philosopher and if so, who that was. I've done research regarding "influence" however, I found nothing that was of any help.

Fairfax family + older brother influence:
http://www.history.org/almanack/peop...s/biowash2.cfm

On Jstor, all I found were several articles that were quite unrelated to what I needed.

Any and all help would be greatly appreciated.
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Old December 7th, 2009, 08:10 PM   #2
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Re: Who was Washington Influenced by?


Hi, Curious. Welcome to the forum. George Washington is one of my favorite historical figures. I've heard that he was sent to some school in England when he was a youth and there he learned culture, moral wisdom, and such, but don't remember what that school was. I don't believe he was influenced as much by any philosopher as he was inspired by other sources. I get the impression he wasn't as much of an intellectual as were some of the other Founding Fathers, and I don't mean that derogatorily. Intellectualism can have its downsides as well as its upsides.

I'd love to learn more about him, but frankly don't have the time for my own research at the moment. If you post more about him, I'd be very interested in reading it.
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Old December 7th, 2009, 08:14 PM   #3
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Re: Who was Washington Influenced by?


From what I've found regarding Washington and any and all influence on him, he was mainly a self-made man and very militarily focused. None of this really helps me though since the topic I chose was who influenced him philosophically.
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Old December 7th, 2009, 08:28 PM   #4

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Re: Who was Washington Influenced by?


Three books I know that Geo. Washington took to heart were:
'The Rules of Civility"
'Morals' by Seneca
'Cato' by Joseph Addison
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Old December 7th, 2009, 08:56 PM   #5

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Re: Who was Washington Influenced by?


This won't be much help, but it tells you some about his lack of formal education: http://www.nps.gov/archive/fone/clas...on_student.htm


As you said, he was a self-made man, but he had no formal education beyond age 16. He obviously learned a great deal, much of it from his older brothers and much from reading and experience, especially as a surveyor.

This being the case, you have a difficult project and may well find something in his own writings. He said little about religion anywhere and apparently had none. There is an interesting blog here: Washington's religion Protestant religion would tend to show at least an indirect influence from Plato, but as you can see, there is little there.

In the Continental Congress he famously remained silent. He wore a military uniform and accepted the office of Commander-in-Chief. More importantly, he learned much from those about him, and they were awash with philosophers like Locke and Montesquieu especially and with the other enlightenment philosophers. Some of that had to rub off on him. Maybe you can find some direct evidence in his writings. He was a whig, and that in itself suggests indirect influence from Locke.

So you will need to spend some time time looking for indirect influences in his own writings. He was not accustomed to quote people, but to state his case plainly and briefly.

One person who did have some influence on him was Martha Dandridge Custis. Another was Thomas Paine.

I hope that gives you some ideas where to start, but it's going to be a tough one to do.
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Old December 7th, 2009, 09:25 PM   #6

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Re: Who was Washington Influenced by?


Quote:
Originally Posted by tjadams View Post
Three books I know that Geo. Washington took to heart were:
'The Rules of Civility"
'Morals' by Seneca
'Cato' by Joseph Addison
Yes I agree. Roman history and philosophy influenced Washington. Latin and Greek were the pillars of a gentleman's education at the time. Washington has been compared with Cincinnatus by his contemporaries. CuriousReader, I would suggest looking up the story of this Roman aristocrat. Washington’s actions in relinquishing his military power after the Revolutionary War and his eagerness to return to Mt. Vernon may have been genuine or well orchestrated to disarm those that might oppose him fearing that he might become a military dictator. Washington would have been very conscious of the story of Cincinnatus among other famous Romans.
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Old December 7th, 2009, 11:51 PM   #7

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Re: Who was Washington Influenced by?


I remember Washington the most fondly as a man who just wanted to be a Virginia farmer. Nothing wrong with that.
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Old December 8th, 2009, 04:31 AM   #8

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Re: Who was Washington Influenced by?


"Cato' was often paraphrased by Washington in his letters and he had the officers at Valley Forge watch the play.
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Old December 8th, 2009, 01:52 PM   #9

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Re: Who was Washington Influenced by?


John Witherspoon?
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Old December 8th, 2009, 02:08 PM   #10

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Re: Who was Washington Influenced by?


Washington was fairly typical of British officers of that period. He was certainly influenced by the Augustan revivalism which characterized British society in that period - not so much as to have named his children Evander or Damocles or Persephone or anything (which was common at the time), but enough to have an expressed interest in a smattering of Classical icons.
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