University of Virginia School of Continuing and Professional Studies
Charlottesville Center • Fall 2003 • (434) 982-5313 • firstname.lastname@example.org
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The Real George Washington
NCSS – 020 Course Syllabus
Instructor and Course Coordinator: Frank E. Grizzard ,
Senior Associate Editor / Associate Professor
Papers of George Washington
506 Alderman Library
(434) 9243569 (w)
(540) 9432979 (h)
7:00 9:00 p.m., Wednesdays, September 17 November 5 (eight sessions)
University of Virginia Grounds, School of Architecture, Campbell Hall, Room 158
George Washington’s name routinely shows up near the top of everybody’s lists of favorite presidents and most important military commanders. His image is everywhere, on the dollar bill, on the quarter, and on numerous stamps; and his memory is honored by a federal holiday. Yet, when asked, most people find it difficult to say anything meaningful, or even true, about him. This course will examine Washington’s life and career topically, stripping away the myths and embellishments to reveal a man of thoughts and action — real flesh and blood — and, yes, a hero for our time.
This series seeks to recapture what Washington’s contemporaries took for granted — and learn what they couldn’t know — about the American who dominated the historical stage of his era. Students will learn how a frontier surveyor became first a prominent planter, next a military commander, then a great statesman, and finally, The Father of His Country. In the end, they will know why someone wrote of Washington after knowing him for two days, “the more I am acquainted with, the more I esteem him.”
A lecture series featuring the instructor, as well as guest speakers. The lectures will be topically focused, some including slides or computer presentations. Each meeting will include time for a discussion period.
Reading (one or more of the following books) :
In addition to the suggested readings, the course lecturers all have Washington-related book publications:
Class Meetings Schedule:
Class Meetings Schedule:
Frank E. Grizzard, Jr.
This session will explore why Washington has been considered a “great man” by examining the conflation of Washington with his important achievements and the momentous events in which he was involved. This tendency to blur the man with his accomplishments and with his times began while Washington was yet alive, as his roles in the French and Indian and Revolutionary wars, at the Constitutional Convention, and as first President of the U.S., made him the most famous person in America. Subjects covered include Washington’s voluntary submission to civil authority, his vision of national unity, and his posthumous transformation into a demigod in the 19th century, as well as his some of his most noted personal characteristics: leadership, pragmatism, honesty, courage, and perseverance.
Bruce A. Ragsdale
This lecture will examine the early years of Washington’s life, including his education and brief surveying career as well as his growing interest in agriculture and colonial politics. The main focus will be on how the eighteenth-century trans-Atlantic economy affected Washington’s role as a Virginia tobacco planter, his successful transition from a tobacco grower to a wheat farmer and entrepreneur, and the relationship of his economic interests and revolutionary ideology.
Washington and Mount Vernon: An Enduring Legacy
In this lecture the presenter discusses how Washington assembled the five-plantation, 6,000-plus acre estate known as Mount Vernon, its disassemblage upon his death in 1799, and the deterioration of the mansion house until it was saved on the eve of the Civil War by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association of the Union. Mount Vernon’s important legacy is seen through the lens of the material culture that existed at the property in the 18th century and the attempts since to recover and preserve what has survived.
This lecture focuses on Washington’s three primary goals as first president: the establishment of a strong national government; the settlement of the nation’s finances, which meant protecting the new government’s credit while paying the debts left over from the Revolutionary War; and the management of foreign affairs, which consisted of maintaining peace with Great Britain, wresting control of the Northwest Territory while pacifying the numerous Indian nations scattered on the western frontier, and opening navigation of the Spanish-controlled Mississippi River to American shipping. Also discussed is Washington’s central role in the establishment and design of the Federal City on the banks of the Potomac River.
Washington and Slavery
This lecturer probes Washington’s quandary of being the absolute owner and master of human slaves while simultaneously championing the Revolution that had “liberty” as its watchword. In the context of his research on the life of the slaves at the Mount Vernon plantations, the presenter explores the perplexing problems that the institution created for Washington, including the intermarriage of his slaves with those owned by the estate of his wife, the transporting of house servants into free states, the economic burdens of various emancipation schemes, and finally, Washington’s growing disillusionment with the slave system and his ultimate decision to set free his slaves in his will.
Washington and the Ladies
Peter R. Henriques
The emotional and private side of Washington is explored through the unusual approach of surveying Washington’s relationship with women, especially those of his wife Martha, his mother Mary Ball Washington, and his sister Betty Washington Lewis. Also explored are Washington’s early intimacy with Sally Fairfax and his later friendships with several women he met in public life, including the poet Phillis Wheatley and the English historian Catharine Sawbridge Macaulay Graham.