George Washington was not only the first US President and a key figure in the American Revolutionary War… Here, Cyrus A. Ansary(author ofGeorge Washington: Dealmaker-In-Chief Amazon USAmazon UK) argues that Washington’s economic approach and entrepreneurial mind was key in the years after independence and plays a role to this day in America.

George Washington’s inauguration for his first term as president on April 30, 1789.

George Washington’s inauguration for his first term as president on April 30, 1789.

Steve Jobs, who put the iPhone in the pockets of millions of Americans, owed more to George Washington than he could have ever imagined. So do Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, multimedia maven Oprah Winfrey, Mattel’s Ruth Handler, and countless other enterprising Americans who have been among the top 1%. The American culture of entrepreneurship and famously strong economy that encouraged and nurtured their successes did not sprout into being by sheer happenstance. It was the first US President who painstakingly laid the foundation for the entrepreneurial culture to take root in America.


Encouraging Entrepreneurs

What most of us remember about George Washington’s legacy from history class probably has mostly to do with the Revolutionary War or his unassailable character—not his role in creating the foundation of a flourishing U.S. economy. In fact, many writers and historians assume that Washington knew little or nothing about economics, and attribute the early successes in the field to Alexander Hamilton. As Washington’s Treasury Secretary, Hamilton performed brilliantly in refinancing the nation’s debt structure and creating a national bank. President Washington’s economic blueprint for the country, however, was far broader in scope and modern America owes quite a lot to his strategic vision for the United States.

Stifled by British imperial policies while growing up, George Washington developed a vision of an economic model for the fledgling United States that was based on his own professional experiences. In his private life he was a serial entrepreneur and dealmaker long before those terms were even invented. He drew from those experiences upon becoming President to create laws, policies, and practices designed to create a flourishing entrepreneurial society. To achieve it, he had to overcome serious opposition from many quarters, including from within his own administration. In addition, he also had to deal with the substantial obstacles placed in his path by foreign adversaries. He persevered because he was keenly aware of the unfairness of the British system and understood why and how it had to be changed.


Washington’s Approach

Washington, however, never formally laid out his economic philosophy in the colonial equivalent of a white paper, as the last thing on his mind was to consciously devise a new economic theory. That kind of thinking, then and now, has generally been the province of academics. Washington’s approach was pragmatic, based on his experience working under British colonial rule and seeing very clearly what did not work. He knew that eliminating corruption, dismantling the roadblocks to business formation, fostering a stable national culture, establishing a respected federal judiciary, promoting the availability of private credit, and other similar measures had to happen in order to create a flourishing economy.

During Washington’s tenure in office American society in fact achieved a remarkable transformation, as evidenced by the creation of new commercial enterprises, the general prosperity in cities and towns, the active trade of the United States, and the growing demand for U.S. government debt. The system worked so well that, even with the built-in delays for such a program to mature and bear fruit, the nominal GDP of the United States during the last decade of the 18th century soared by an average of 9.78% per year, enabling the country to catch up with mighty Great Britain in output per capita only 20 years later.


The Impact of Washington’s Economic Approach

Washington’s actions are even more striking when you consider how far the country has come since then. Today the U.S. economy accounts for a large share of global output and provides the basis for our very high standard of living at home. The dollar is the preeminent currency for trade and finance in the world, and investors flock to the U.S. from other lands to pursue interest in our markets. Aside from the resilience and strength of the American economy, its propensity to produce life-changing innovations and technological breakthroughs is an inspiration to others.

Whether or not you’re in the 1% of wealth in the US, we all owe a debt to our first President’s socio-economic vision, which was far more comprehensive than is often credited. His extraordinary ingenuity and his unyielding determination in seeing his vision take root are directly responsible for the foundations that have allowed our economy to flourish. George Washington is, therefore, not only the father of our country, he is also the architect of our special and highly successful economy.


George Washington: Dealmaker-In-Chief will be available on February 18, 2019 in Trade Paperback and eBook at bookstores nationwide and online retailers includingAmazon USAmazon UK.

Cyrus A. Ansary has an economics degree from American University in Washington, D.C., and a law degree from Columbia University in New York. He also studied French history at the University of Paris.  Ansary was Chairman of the Board of Trustees of American University for almost ten years, after serving as a member of that board for eighteen years. He is now Chairman Emeritus. The university annually awards the Cyrus A. Ansary Medal to a civic or corporate leader selected by its Board of Trustees. In 2014, Mount Vernon awarded the Cyrus A. Ansary Prize for Courage and Character to President George H.W. Bush.

Ansary was also a trustee of the Krupp Foundation in Essen, Germany, a member of the Woodrow Wilson Council in Washington, D.C., a trustee of the Washington Opera Society, and a trustee of the Wolf Trap Foundation in Vienna, Virginia. He was a member of the Life Guard Society of George Washington’s Mount Vernon, and is now an emeritus member. Ansary is a member of the Economic Club of Washington, D.C., the Economic Club of New York, the National Association for Business Economics, the CFA Society of Washington, D.C., and the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. He is a member of the bars of Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Supreme Court. He has been listed for decades in Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in the World.

To connect with Ansary, please visit his LinkedIn Profile and Facebook Page.

The Battle of the Monongahela took place on July 9, 1755, in the early part of the French and Indian War. In the battle British – and British American – forces battled against French, Canadian, and Native American forces. And the battle took place in part due to a blunder by George Washington. Bill Yates explains.

A depiction of the British general, Edward Braddock, who led British and British American forces in the battle.

A depiction of the British general, Edward Braddock, who led British and British American forces in the battle.

Major General Edward Braddock was tired. Born in 1695, in Perthshire, Scotland, he joined the military as a member of the Coldstream Guard at age 15. For 45 years he dutifully followed orders and fought for his king. Yet, on the steamy hot morning of 9 July, 1755, the immense physical and emotional strain of command wore heavily on his body (1).


July 1754 - Controversial Terms of Surrender

Just the year before he had equaled and surpassed his father’s rank when appointed Major General, and named Commander-in-Chief of all British forces in North America (1). His mission was to clean up a military mess created when a then unknown 22-year old major named George Washington attacked a French patrol. The brief skirmish ended with 13 dead Frenchmen and 21 captured. The French however claimed the men were not on a patrol but a diplomatic mission and as such considered the British action an unprovoked act of war (2/3). 

Concerned the French troops located at Fort Duquesne (now Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) would retaliate Washington had a circular palisaded (wooden stake) fort hastily built. He christened it Fort Necessity, and sent word for reinforcements noting; "We might be attacked by considerable forces". By mid June, Washington’s force totaled over 400 men backed with supplies and nine small cannons or swivel guns (4). 

On the morning of 3 July, 1754, Washington received word a contingent of 600 French troops and 100 Native Americans were advancing on the fort. Now promoted to the rank of colonel Washington moved his men from the fort and into entrenchments he had previously dug. The ensuing pitched battle lasted to nightfall, with the British suffering far greater casualties (4). 

Sometime around 8 p.m. the commander of the French force, Captain Louis Coulon de Villiers, requested a truce to discuss the terms of Washington's surrender. It was one of the articles within these terms that the French used for great political gain, and may be noted as the beginnings of both the French Indian War, and the Seven Years War - wherein a clause within the signed terms proclaimed Washington was guilty of assassinating a French officer. Washington later denied the accusation stating the translation he was given was not "assassination", but instead "death of" or "killing". While the truth of the officer’s death is lost to history, the French used Washington’s signed statement as propaganda to great advantage in creating alliances against the English in the upcoming Seven Years War (4). 



February 1755 - Arrival

Major General Braddock stepped on Virginia soil in February, 1755. He was accompanied by two regiments of soldiers, supplies, and an overabundance of British arrogance. Braddock displayed a disdain for the traditions, customs, and columnists themselves. His orders specifically allowed him to demand appropriations from the columnists. And, he expected little objection or resistance to his Imperial seizure of goods, supplies, and soldiers from which he took freely. It may be said Braddock looked upon the British columnists as second-class citizens, and undertook a laissez faireattitude towards American possessions. He completely failed to realize how passionately the colonists would cling to the idea of diffused sovereignty. And, to an extent he and his subordinates, through their haughty, supercilious, condescending and downright aggressive attitudes, actions and policies began to sow the seeds of discontent that would unite the Americans to come together and form a new nation twenty years later (5).

It may be noted his haughty attitude was not the biggest blunder Braddock made. He chose the resource light Virginia as his launching point for a long campaign into the Ohio valley, he squandered native alliances - which he saw little use for, and he brought with him a massive baggage train with vast numbers of burdensome and resource draining followers (5). 


May 1755 – The Trip Begins

Braddock began his ill-fated trip on 29 May. He brought with him as a guide and aid Colonel George Washington and 2,200 troops. His mission was part of a four-pronged attack. He was to take Fort Duquesne and then proceed north and take Fort Niagara, establishing British control over the entire Ohio territory. He however soon encountered numerous problems. Scornful of the Native populace, he didn’t understand the need to recruit them and had only 8 Mingo guides. The road he chose was too narrow for the massive amount of people, supplies, and equipment, which meant it needed to be constantly widened so the artillery and supply wagons could transverse it. Soon, Braddock became frustrated with the lack of progress and split his troops in two. Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Gage, would lead the “flying column” of 1,300, while he remained with the slower force containing the cannons and supply wagons (5).

As the remote Fort Duquesne had always been lightly manned the British believed they would be in for an easy victory. They even began to talk amongst themselves that the French would evacuate or run away when they saw the might of the British army advancing towards them. However, what the British didn’t know was that the French were anticipating such an attack and had fortified the fort with 1,600 men (5). When scouts reported the British were approaching Claude-Pierre Pecaudy de Contrecœur, the Canadian commander of the fort, dispatched 108 Troupes de la Marine, 146 Canadian militia, and 600 Native Americans led by Captain Daniel Liénard de Beaujeu to meet them (6). 

Here may be noted the massive error Braddock made when his disdain for the Native populace stopped him from recruiting more - as they could have advised him of the tactics which were going to be used against them. This was the hunting ground for the 600 Natives aligned with the French. Thickets, dense shrubs, and mature trees surrounded the higher ground they controlled, while the British found themselves in a lower open forest. In a short time the familiar Native hunting grounds turned into a killing field (6). 


The Battle

Under heavy fire what was left of the flying column went into full retreat, quickly running headlong into the slower heavier force. While greatly outnumbering their attackers the British were caught off guard by their fleeing countrymen. And, the ensuing accurate shots fired by the combined French, Canadian, and Native forces sent them into a panic. The narrow road did not allow the British cannons any effectiveness and deepened the dread in the men. Seeing his troops in disarray Braddock rode forth to rally his troops. His bravery inspired the remaining British officers who stepped into the open in an effort to create defensive lines. They made themselves easy targets but the men steadied and formed together (7).

The British lines began to hold, returning disciplined and deadly shots (7). As the battle ensued elements of the combined French forces circled around and attacked the wagons, and the 19-year old future American icon Daniel Boone barely escaped. A Wagoner under the command of Captain Hugh Waddell, Boone escaped by cutting his wagons and fleeing (8).

Three hours into the battle a musket ball ripped through Braddock’s lung. He limply fell to the ground and was dragged away. With Braddock mortally wounded and the officer corps decimated, the British, believing they were about to be massacred, fled. The Natives refused to follow. And, instead began scalping and looting the bodies (7).


In Retrospect

This is now considered one of the British Army’s worst hours. Braddock died four days later. Of the 2,200 troops, 456 were killed and 422 were wounded. The bravery of the officer core felt the worst casualties; wherein of 86 officers, 26 were killed and 37 wounded. Conversely the French noted light casualties. The lessons learned changed the methodology of how the British would conduct future warfare (7).     

A side note may be referenced in that there are persistent rumors that during the retreat Braddock’s men buried a considerable treasure in the form of payment to settlers for goods and supplies and payroll for the men equaling in today’s value $750,000. While to date this has not been proven we do know Colonel Thomas Dunbar had the wagons burned, destroyed the supplies, and buried the cannons (9). French records do not show gold as spoils of the battle (7), which may lead one to believe it to be nothing more than rumor. Yet, before deciding we may also note that after the battle colonists of the area refused - and were at times forced – to provide supplies to the British. Their reasoning was they “never received payment after Braddock's accounts were lost on the Monongahela” (10).


What do you think of the Battle of the Monongahela? Let us know below.


(1). N.A.. (2018, July 9). Edward Braddock British Commander. Encyclopedia Britannica. Online: 

(2). N.A.. (2013, Sept 22). The Braddock Campaign. Fort Necessity National Battlefield Pennsylvania. National Park Service. Online:

(3). N.A.. (2012, March 31). Jumonville Glen. Fort Necessity National Battlefield Pennsylvania. National Park Service. Online:

(4). N.A.. (2015, Feb 26). The Battle of Fort Necessity. Fort Necessity National Battlefield Pennsylvania. National Park Service. Online:

(5). Anderson, F.. (2000).  Crucible of War: The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North America: 1754-1766 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000).

(6). Eccles, W. J.. (1990). France in America. Michigan State Press. 

(7). Hadden, J.. (1906). Sketch of Thos. Fausett: The slayer of Maj. Gen. Edward Braddock, who fell in the disastrous defeat in the battle of the Monongahela in the French and Indian war, July 9, 1755. Monthly Bulletin of the Carnegie of Pittsburgh. Vol. II 1906.  

(8). Wallace, Paul A. W. (1 August 2007). "Daniel Boone in Pennsylvania". DIANE Publishing Inc.

(9). McLynn, Frank (2004). 1759: The Year Britain Became Master of the World. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press.

(10). Hazard, ed., Colonial Records of Pennsylvania, 8:282, 85. Parsons to Weiser, 0an.] 1757, Weiser to Peters, Nov. 17, 1757, Conrad Weiser Papers 2:67, 105, HSP. Stevenson to Bouquet, 31 May, 1757,Louis Waddell et al., eds., The Papers of Henry Bouquet, 6.

War history centers on some of human history’s most renowned and respected generals, those who commanded domineering and revolutionary armies: Alexander the Great, George S. Patton, Genghis Khan, Napoleon Bonaparte, and George Washington to name a few. Legendary generals are marked by their extraordinary military strategy, ferocity, bravery, and of course, commanding presence. However, a trait in one commanding general stands out and separates him from others.

Casey Titus explains.

George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette at Valley Forge. By John Ward Dunsmore, 1907.

George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette at Valley Forge. By John Ward Dunsmore, 1907.

Continental Army Commander

Historians have frequently observed Washington’s dedication to American Independence which Washington admirably referred to as “our glorious cause.” He accepted the title as commander of the Continental Army without pay. Washington was one of the richest men in Virginia, if not the colonies. Had he wanted to, Washington would certainly have had the means to remain in the comfort and security at his home of Mount Vernon or toured the country Washington fought for during his service in the French and Indian War – Great Britain.

His leadership proved brilliant, especially in 1777-78 at Valley Forge during a bitterly cold winter. Of the 11,000 soldiers stationed at Valley Forge, hundreds would perish from disease. General Washington endured alongside his men. American military historian Edward G. Lengel describes his leadership during this “sacrificial” as he took “great care in seeing that his soldiers were well housed.”

While his leadership skills were exceptional, his military strategy was not. Alexander the Great is famous worldwide for his monumental empire, as he was never defeated in battle, and as he overpowered King Darius of Persia through deception. The Continental Army suffered more losses than victories under General Washington. However, the source of his triumph was his ability to rally supporters around “our glorious cause” through reminding them of their patriotic contributions. Washington understood the need to explain the “why” aspect of the fight for independence before addressing the “what” or “how” aspect. Washington was convinced, but not boastful.

David McCullough, author of John Adams, wrote that General Washington listened to the advice of his war council and messengers that reported to him which he used to avoid more catastrophic mistakes, proving that Washington continued to look after the lives and wellbeing of his men.
As a leader, Washington accomplished one of the most tremendous feats an under-trained and under-resourced ragtag militia could muster against a worldwide empire.


Political Office

On September 3, 1783, Great Britain formally acknowledged the independence of the United States with the signing of the Treaty of Paris, bringing the prolonged eight years of war to an end. At the moment of this monumental victory, Washington was at the peak of his power, a time at which most conquering generals in past human history would have appointed themselves as dictators. For example, not too many years after 1783, Napoleon Bonaparte led successful campaigns during France’s revolutionary wars and rendered himself emperor after the French monarchy was overthrown.

When the war ended, King George III asked his envoys about Washington’s activities. He was told Washington retired from public life, back at his home of Mount Vernon. George III couldn’t believe it; he leaned back in his chair and said, “If this be true, then George Washington must be the greatest Man in the world.”

After five years of comfort as a Virginian farmer, Washington once again recognized the need of the people for a leader to guide the nation in its infancy. The veteran general would serve his country as the first president of the United States from 1789-1797. He dressed in civilian clothes despite being encouraged to wear his military uniform as he felt it would resemble a military dictatorship – at the time much of Europe was, or was soon to be, under such rulers. He rebuked the title of “His Majesty,” simply preferring to be called “Mr. President.” Only serving two terms in office, Washington recognized that position was more impactful than his name and he would set an example for future presidents. In his farewell address, Washington utilized his language to humanize himself as a reminder that he is flawed and vulnerable like everyone else, yet devoted to building a nation future generations could thrive in.

At the end of his presidency, Washington told his friends and colleagues, “Gentlemen, if you wish to speak to me again, it will be under my own Fig and Vine.”


What do you think of George Washington? Let us know below.

AuthorGeorge Levrier-Jones
CategoriesBlog Post

As of November 2017, the United States of America had 45 presidents - well technically 44 people as Grover Cleveland was president twice - but there have been 45 presidencies since 1789. But have you ever thought about who ‘ran’ the United States before George Washington took office in 1789? The US called for Independence from Great Britain in 1776. Doing the math, there were 13 years between the Declaration of Independence and George Washington’s term as president, although the early ‘presidents’ began even earlier… Jennifer Johnson explains.

A portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart, 1797.

A portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart, 1797.


The Start of a New Nation

For many American colonists, declaring Independence from Great Britain was a surprise. Due to treason laws, the men who became known as the Founding Fathers, met in secret while determining how they would fight for independence from the Mother Country. And they knew that once independence was declared, it would be a fight to the finish. Therefore, there was a lot that transpired after the Declaration of Independence, namely the American Revolutionary War. However, even with the US at war with Great Britain, someone still needed to oversee the newly formed United States. So, who could that be? Step forward, the President of the Continental Congress.

Before we get too far into who the presidents before George Washington were, it is important to note that the Presidents of the Continental Congress and the Presidents of the USA ended up with different responsibilities. One reason for this is America, at war with Britain, was not truly independent until the 1780s. Even during the different presidencies of the Continental Congress, responsibilities changed. And one of the biggest differences was the term in office. There were many presidents for short periods before George Washington. The Continental Presidents could stay in office until they resigned or Congress felt a new president was necessary - at least before the Articles of Confederation were agreed.


The Early Continental Presidents

Peyton Randolph is known as the first President of the Continental Congress, or Continental President.  He was given this title in September 1774 when everyone in Congress voted for him to be so. However, in October 1774, Henry Middleton became the second Continental President for about a week, after which Peyton Randolph took over again, this time for a little under a month due to poor health.  Once Randolph resigned a second-time due to his health and headed back to Virginia to be with his family, one of the most famous Founding Fathers took over, John Hancock. Hancock stayed on as president until October 1777. John Hancock did not even step down as Continental President when Peyton Randolph came back for a period of time, though many felt Hancock should have in order to let Randolph assume his responsibilities. Unfortunately, all this debate ended when Peyton Randolph passed away suddenly of a stroke in October 1775. This means that John Hancock was the first President of the Continental Congress to preside under the US after the Revolutionary War broke out and after independence was declared. Henry Laurens was the fifth Continental President and served from the time Hancock stepped down until December 1778. Laurens was succeeded by John Jay, who served until September 28, 1779.  The seventh Continental Congress President was Samuel Huntington, who served from the date John Jay stepped down until a couple months after the Articles of Confederation were ratified in 1781. 


Continental Presidents Under the Articles of Confederation

Once the Articles of Confederation were ratified by all of America’s 13 states, the responsibilities of the Presidents of the Continental Congress began to extend. Thomas McKean was the first Continental President to hold his full term under the Articles of Confederation, lasting from July 1781 to November of that year. John Hanson was the ninth and lasted a year in office, from November 5, 1781 to November 4, 1782.  Then it was the turn of Elias Boudinot from New Jersey, who was in place until November 3, 1783. The eleventh Continental President was Thomas Mifflin, who served as president until June 1784. Unfortunately for Mifflin, he had a tough short term as Continental President as General George Washington resigned in December 1783 and then Mifflin had the challenge of trying to get enough delegates from the states so Congress could ratify the Treaty of Paris. Richard Henry Lee of Virginia was the twelfth and resided in office from November 30, 1784 to November 4, 1785.  The thirteenth was once again John Hancock, who filled the position from November 1785 to June 1786. After Hancock’s second term as Continental President, Nathaniel Gorham took over from June 6, 1786 until November of that same year. The last two Continental Presidents were Arthur St. Clair, who was in office from February to November 1787, and Cyrus Griffin who was president until November 1788.


George Washington becomes President

The famous first President, and truly first president with the title and responsibilities of the President of the USA, took office in 1789 and served two terms as president, until 1797. As the majority of Americans know, George Washington is one of the most famous and heavily researched of all the United States’ presidents. However, Washington was in many ways not truly the first president of United States of America as an independent country. 


Let us know what you think of the article below…


"Continental Presidents." Continental Presidents ***. Accessed October 5, 2017. Staff. "John Hancock." 2009. Accessed October 8, 2017.

"Peyton Randolph: The forgotten revolutionary president." National Constitution Center – Accessed October 5, 2017.

"President of the Continental Congress." Wikipedia. October 07, 2017. Accessed October 14, 2017.

"Thomas Mifflin." Wikipedia. October 06, 2017. Accessed October 14, 2017.

AuthorGeorge Levrier-Jones
CategoriesBlog Post
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A multitude of myths and legends surround first US president George Washington. Some of these turn out to be true - but surely the first American president wasn’t a drug addict? Simone Flynn assesses how George Washington used drugs and drank alcohol to determine the myth and the reality…

Washington as Farmer at Mount Vernon  by Julius Brutus Stearns, 1851. But did Washington's activity on his Mount Vernon estate include excessive drug or alcohol consumption?

Washington as Farmer at Mount Vernon by Julius Brutus Stearns, 1851. But did Washington's activity on his Mount Vernon estate include excessive drug or alcohol consumption?

My name is George Washington and I’m a laudanum addict – maybe.

In a spoken word section of The Fugs song “Wide, Wide River” (from the 1968 album “It Crawled Into My Hand, Honest), the singer/speaker bemoans, a “supposedly democratic system, where you end up always voting for the lesser of two evils? I mean, was George Washington the lesser of two evils? Sometimes I wonder...”

By modern standards we’ve long known that Washington, the father of the US, was not perfect. For one thing, he was a slave owner. He may have been an adulterer. And, according to some sources, he may have been a drug addict or an alcoholic. The tricky aspect of assessing these claims are that, like much of his life, it’s sometimes hard to separate the reality from the myth - although the well-known cherry tree myth seems unequivocally to be the latter!

The evidence pointing to Washington as being a possible addict is:

1.     Washington grew hemp, which like marijuana contains THC (but much less)

2.     After his two terms as president, he opened a whiskey distillery at his plantation home at Mount Vernon

3.     Washington seemed fond of Madeira, a fortified Portuguese wine, and complained that he thought his servants were drinking it up

4.     Washington was known to consume laudanum, an addictive substance


Scant evidence?

While Washington was upset about how much Madeira his servants might be drinking, it was the outrage of a rich person upset over being taken advantage of by the help, not an alcoholic worried about his stash. The distillery, too, wasn’t for personal consumption (at least not primarily) but as a moneymaking enterprise.

And while he drank a lot, at alcoholic levels to modern sensibilities, so did the other Founding Fathers. At the last meeting of the Continental Congress, enough alcohol was consumed for each delegate to have more than two bottles apiece to themselves. And alcohol such as hard cider was served with most meals, including breakfast, in part because water often wasn’t safe.

The hemp use isn’t particularly damning either, as hemp then was used mainly for rope, paper and other commercial purposes, not recreational drug use, and there’s no documented and little circumstantial evidence that Washington smoked its flowers.

Washington’s laudanum consumption is another matter. Laudanum, a mixture of opium tincture and alcohol, was a widely used medicine at the time, an analgesic and nostrum used for many maladies and ailments. It was cheaper than simple booze because it was considered medicine, so not subject to alcohol taxes. Although it retains some legitimate uses, such as for diarrhea, laudanum is highly addictive, especially if used more often or in greater doses than prescribed. Back then, it might have been as casually abused as other opiates and opioids today. Until 1868, laudanum was pretty much unregulated, and it wasn’t until the early 20th century that its risks were well known.

Washington needed laudanum because of his famously ‘wooden’ teeth, which were actually made of real teeth, both human and animal, and carved ivory (probably from hippopotamus tusks). They were so ill fitting that they caused him constant pain. The belief that they were wooden may be because they would become stained and cracked, thus resembling wood grain. Washington had only one remaining tooth to anchor his dentures.

Many other notable people have been known for or suspected of laudanum addiction over the centuries including poets Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Keats and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and authors Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

If Washington was addicted to laudanum, it wasn’t for the purpose of getting high, or even coping with the stress of being the Revolutionary War hero and first President of the United States (talk about pressure). Washington took laudanum for intense pain. He was at worse a high-functioning addict who accomplished a lot and lived to age 67 after suffering from smallpox, tuberculosis and other life-shortening disabilities before the invention of penicillin. That’s quite an achievement.


Please share your thoughts below…



Simone Flynn blogs about addiction, recovery, mental health, and wellness. She has asked us to link to a rehabilitation center here.

Today we have an excerpt from George Washington’s Secret Spy War: The Making of America’s First Spymaster by American Revolution historian, John A. Nagy (available here US) | (here UK).


This is the story of how America was really won. Using George Washington’s diary as the primary source, historian John A. Nagy uncovers the never-before-known history of how Washington was not just the first president but also America’s first spymaster. Nagy reveals how Washington first dabbled with espionage in the French and Indian War. Ultimately, it is this expertise that leads to the defeat of the British - they weren’t just outplayed, they were out spied: from double-crosses to doubly shady characters. Nagy unearths the surprising true stories behind numerous spy rings on both sides of the war.

Below we share an excerpt from the book.

Chapter 4: Pools of Blood

Washington was always concerned about spies. They were a constant problem except when the armies were on the move. He knew he could not stop all of them, so feeding them false information was his next best defense. With that in mind on December 12, 1776, he told Colonel John Cadwalader of the Philadelphia Associators of the Pennsylvania militia, “Keep a good look out for spies; endeavor to magnify your numbers as much as possible.” It was a ploy he would use over and over again in creating false troop information, inflating the size and giving the wrong location of his forces for spies to discover and take back to enemy headquarters.

Washington in December of 1776 was desperate to know what the British were doing. Spare no pains or expense to get intelligence of the enemy’s intentions, Washington told Cadwalader. He had also told General James Ewing, “Spare no pains nor cost to gain information of the enemy’s movements and designs. Whatever sums you pay to obtain this end I will cheerfully refund. “He also advised Brigadier General Philemon Dickinson to spare no pains or expense to obtain intelligence, and all promises he made or monies advanced would be acknowledged and paid. Three days later Washington was still desperate for information and again was encouraging Cadwalader to get intelligence of the enemy’s intentions.

Dickinson, who was at Yardley’s farm in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, advised Washington on the 21st of the information he was able to collect from two people who had come out of New Jersey on what was going on in New Brunswick, and from a person from Crosswicks regarding boats at Lewis’s Mill. A slave from Trenton told of boats being built a mile from town. Dickinson told Washington he was going to increase the amount he was offering to $15 or $20 for someone to go as a spy to Trenton and return. “People here are fearful of the inhabitants betraying them.” On the 24th he was able to secure someone to take the risks and he got him across the river into New Jersey. He was due back the next morning, at which time he was going to be provided with a horse to get to Washington.

On the morning of December 31, 1776, while at Crosswicks, one of Cadwalader’s spies, who was identified only as “a very intelligent young gentleman,” had just returned from the British camp at Princeton some sixteen miles distant. He identified the number and locations of British and Hessian forces in the town. He said “there were about five thousand men, consisting of Hessians and British troops—about the same number of each. . . . He conversed with some of the officers, and lodged last night with them.” As part of a disinformation campaign, Washington had previously instructed that the numbers of American troops were to be magnified. The spy complied with these instructions by saying that Washington had 16,000 men. However, they would not believe that Washington had more than 5,000 or 6,000. The spy reported, “They parade every morning an hour before day [break]—and some nights lie on their arms—An attack has been expected for several nights past—the men are much fatigued, and until last night [were] in want of provisions—when a very considerable number of wagons arrived with provisions from [New] Brunswick.” He provided a crucial piece of information: the enemy was not expecting an attack from the east, as there were “no sentries on the back or east side of the town” facing the water, thus leaving the town unguarded. The spy also provided enough detailed information for a map, which was made by Cadwalader, showing the enemy’s positions at Princeton.

Washington and the army re-crossed the ice-choked Delaware and returned to New Jersey on December 29. The artillery was unable to cross till the 31st due to the ice. When assembled at Trenton, Washington’s forces numbered 6,000 men and forty cannons. However, enlistments were expiring and soldiers would be going home. The army was going to evaporate before his eyes. Washington appealed to his men to stay in service for some promised bonus money. On December 31, Robert Morris in Philadelphia sent Washington the sum of 410 Spanish milled dollars, 2 English crowns, 10½ English shillings, and one half a French crown, amounting to 155 pounds, 9 shillings, 6 pence in Pennsylvania currency, or 124 pounds, 7 shillings, 8 pence lawful money, which is the value in gold and silver. Buoyed by the combination of victory at Trenton and money from Morris, most men stayed.

After Washington’s victory at Trenton, British General Cornwallis returned to New Jersey from New York City. He assembled a force of 8,000 at Princeton, leaving 1,200 at Princeton under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Charles Mawhood of the 17th Regiment of Foot. On January 2, he took his remaining forces, which included twenty-eight cannons, and marched toward Trenton and Washington’s army. When he reached Maidenhead (now Lawrenceville), he detached Colonel Alexander Leslie of the 64th Regiment of Foot with 1,500 men. He ordered them to stay there until the next morning. As soon as Washington heard that Cornwallis was on his way to attack him, he detached men to skirmish with the approaching British forces in a delaying action. Due to the American resistance it was not until late in the day when the British army finally reached Trenton. It was the second time in eight days that the Americans would engage the enemy.

The Americans were encamped on the east side of a bridge across the Assunpink Creek. The British advanced in solid columns onto the bridge. The Americans fired in unison and the British fell back. The British regrouped and charged the bridge again. This time the Americans fired a cannon into the redcoats and they fell back once more. After regrouping they moved onto the bridge. This time the American cannons fired antipersonnel canister shot, which is like a shotgun blast of small pellets. The bridge was littered with the dead. A soldier described the scene: “The bridge looked red as blood, with their killed and wounded and their red coats.” The firing and the killing continued till sunset when Cornwallis called off the attack. He planned to take the bridge the next morning and then crush Washington and the Continental Army. Both sides were exhausted and the soldiers on both sides were ordered to rest.

It was brought to Washington’s attention that the British could cross the creek farther down at Philip’s Ford and turn his flank. He would have been caught between the British forces and the Delaware River. It would have been a repeat of the Battle of Long Island. This time he could not escape by crossing the Delaware, as he had crossed the East River before, as his vessels were farther upstream. He did not have the time for them to be brought to his rescue. Later the British quietly, under the cover of darkness, began moving 2,000 men in the woods into position to cross Philip’s Ford in the morning.

Washington had received Cadwalader’s spy’s intelligence on the enemy situation at Princeton. The unknown spy provided great detail of the British fortifications. This would be the rare occasion that Washington acted on a single spy’s intelligence, as there was no time to get corroborating intelligence. Because of the desperate situation, he could not stand pat. He had to do something or be destroyed.

He hurriedly called a council of war. It was decided to slip away during the night and surprise the British at Princeton. The Continental Army’s military and personal baggage was sent south to Burlington. The artillery was wrapped in heavy cloth to quiet the noise. Five hundred soldiers were left at Trenton with two cannons. Some were assigned to tend the campfires to keep them burning. Others were to make noise digging with picks and shovels to convince the British that the American army was going to make a stand and was reinforcing its position preparing for the British attack at Philip’s Ford. The soldiers who were left as a distraction were to sneak away during the night and catch up to the Continental Army before dawn. The army, as silently as possible, slipped away beginning at 2 a.m. while the British watched the light from the American camp- fires. For some of the men it would be their third night march in a row in the cold and extreme darkness. They were slowed by the task of getting the artillery over stumps in the frozen, rutted road. After crossing the new bridge, Washington split the army into two units just as when he approached Trenton a week earlier.

Unfortunately, just like a week earlier, they were arriving later than intended and lost the cover of darkness.

Thirty-four-year-old Rhode Islander General Nathanael Greene took the smaller column of soldiers and went west to take control of the main road from Princeton to Trenton. They were to keep the enemy at Princeton from escaping and block any reinforcements coming to the aid of those at Princeton. General John Sullivan of New Hampshire commanded the main body of the army of 5,000 men. They went to the right along the Saw Mill Road.

Cornwallis had ordered forty-seven-year-old Lieutenant Colonel Charles Mawhood to bring the 17th and 55th British Regiments of Foot along with some artillery to Trenton to join his army in the morning. Mawhood marched out from Princeton at about five in the morning. While on the march he sighted the main American army under General Sullivan. He immediately sent a rider to warn the 40th Regiment of Foot in Princeton of the advancing Americans.

Mawhood decided to attack with 450 men the main American army. Brigadier General Hugh Mercer’s 1,500 men of Greene’s division made the first contact with Mawhood’s men in William Clark’s orchard. Lieutenant William John Hale of the 45th Regiment of Foot wrote that the American volley was “a heavy discharge, which brought down seven of my platoon at once, the rest being recruits, gave way.” He continues, “I rallied them with much difficulty, and brought them forward with bayonets.” The two sides matched volley for volley. Pools of blood glistened on the ice-covered field. Mawhood saw an opportunity and ordered a bayonet charge against the American riflemen, who did not have bayonets. Brigadier General Mercer’s horse was hit and down Mercer went as he ordered a retreat. His men safely retreated but Mercer fell into British hands. He fought with his sword and was bayoneted many times and would die several days later. His men retreated right into Colonel John Cadwalader’s Pennsylvania Associators as they were trying to deploy. Washington came on the field and rallied the men, riding on a white horse within seventy-five feet of the British line. He made a very easy target but somehow came through the battle without a scratch. More American units came onto the field, some with bayonets drawn.

The British fired a volley that went over the heads of the Americans. Washington with the army under control then ordered a platoon to fire as it marched forward. Washington was turning their flank and was about to attack the British rear as well as the front and flank. The circle was closing. The British decided their only course of action was either to fight and be cut to pieces or retreat through the only way still available. Mawhood sent the artillery back to Princeton in an effort to save them. The 55th Regiment of Foot took up position south of the town at a place called Frog Hollow. They were outnumbered 10 to 1. They did some delaying actions, falling back to new defensive positions. This bought the British some time to remove as much of their supplies and artillery out of Princeton as possible and take them to safety in New Brunswick. When the American army was within fifty or sixty feet of the British defenses and ready to charge, a British officer with a white handkerchief on the point of his sword asked for a truce in order to surrender. General Sullivan accepted his surrender.

Some of the British forces that were in the town took shelter in Nassau Hall, which was the main building for the College of New Jersey (now Princeton). Alexander Hamilton had some cannons brought to the front of Nassau Hall and fired at the building. When some Americans broke open the front door, the British waved a white flag through one of the windows and surrendered. The Americans had defeated the British regulars and were now in control of the town. As soon as Cornwallis realized the Americans had slipped away during the night, were now behind him, and he was in an unsupported position, he and his troops headed back to Princeton.

The British payroll chest of £70,000 lay just sixteen miles up the road in New Brunswick guarded by a skeleton force. It was a great prize but Washington’s men were exhausted. Some had not had any rest for two nights and a day. From the best intelligence Washington was able to get, the British were so alarmed at the possibility of an attack at New Brunswick that they immediately marched there without halting at Princeton. This al- lowed Washington to take his men unmolested another thirty miles past New Brunswick to the safety of an encampment in the Watchung Mountains in and around Morristown.

The increase in the morale of the public and the troops was meteoric. The mood went from the despair of expecting Philadelphia to fall to the British juggernaut, which had ridden rough- shod over New York and New Jersey, to euphoria over the two American victories. William Hooper, a Continental congress- man from North Carolina, best described the change in the public morale and the heady confidence in Washington and the Continental Army after the victories at the Battle of Trenton over the Hessians and the Battle of Princeton over the British.


Excerpted with permission from George Washington’s Secret Spy War: The Making of America’s First Spymaster by John A. Nagy. Published by St. Martin’s Press. Copyright 2016. Book available here US | here UK.

How did the American Revolution reach its fascinating end?

In episode 5 of the American Revolution History podcast series, you will find out!

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The  Siege of Yorktown  by Auguste  Couder

The Siege of Yorktown by Auguste Couder

We follow on from episode 4 in our series on the American Revolution, World War, and finish the story of how America became a nation. In this episode we look at the events that led to the American Revolutionary War ending. We shall see how the battle for the Southern colonies came to a close, and the amazing events around Yorktown, Virginia. Then there were the battles that continued to take place around the world that were linked to the conflict. And the aftermath.

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George Levrier-Jones

When faced against the American rebels, France and other European Powers, how did Britain gain the upper hand in the American Revolution?

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General George Washington

General George Washington

In this podcast we look at how the American Revolution became a truly global war over the years from 1779. The war spread to more countries and territories dotted around the world, and Britain herself became involved in the fighting. However, the most important battles ultimately took place in the Thirteen Colonies, especially the southern states. All that plus how 2.6 square miles of land became integral to the American Revolution as we see how the British took this growing global challenge in their stride and inflicted serious damage on the rebels – for a time.

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George Levrier-Jones

Could Britain build on its success around New York in 1776, and put the final nail in the rebellion against its rule in the Thirteen Colonies?

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A major decision taken by General Burgoyne in 1777. But what did he do?

A major decision taken by General Burgoyne in 1777. But what did he do?

Today, we see what happened in the fateful years of 1777 and 1778, years of great contrast in the war. In 1777, the British were trying to ambitiously destroy American forces. They had a major force in the north, and another further south that was to attack Philadelphia, the seat of the rebel Continental Congress. These moves would lead to a seismic shift in the war and led to the Great Powers of Europe becoming involved in it.

We can even say that these years made the war.

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George Levrier-Jones




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How did Britain and the Thirteen Colonies come to the point of no return, leading to the start of the American Revolutionary War?

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The Battle of Bunker Hill by Percy Moran (1909)

The Battle of Bunker Hill by Percy Moran (1909)

In this episode we see what happened on the fateful day of April 19 1775 and understand how one single shot became so very important. We will also see what took place over the course of 1775 and a very famous declaration that took place in 1776, as well as the Battle of Bunker Hill, fighting in Canada, and the Battle of Long Island.

In short, we see how the war really broke out.

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George Levrier-Jones




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