George Washington's Marriage

Upon return to his estate following his time serving in the French and Indian War, Washington took time out of his busy professional life to pursue a wife and family. Only a month after leaving active military duty, George married Martha Dandridge Custis, a wealthy Virginia widow on January 6, 1759. As a widow, Martha held over 17,500 acres of land and approximately 300 slaves, since her late husband Daniel Parke Custis did not write a will before his death on July 8, 1757. During her eighteen months as a widow after the death of her first husband, Martha Custis did a fine job of managing her estate. However, since she and Daniel had been married for over seven years and had four children together (only two of which survived past early childhood), Martha most likely wanted to remarry to obtain not only a companion but also a new father for her children. Still, because George Washington was quite wealthy himself when the two began courting, the thought of future financial stability for both Martha and her children had to have crossed Martha's mind. George and Martha actually first met while George was still serving in the military. Martha Custis's home in New Kent County was close to Williamsburg, the location of the Virginia House of Burgesses. On a business trip to the Virginia legislative body, George Washington took a slight detour in order to meet Martha. Their first meeting must have gone well for he returned for a second visit about a week later. After these initial interactions between George and Martha, both of them began to plan for marriage. George finished his time in the military and then returned to Mount Vernon to improve upon his estate. Meanwhile, Martha ordered wedding apparel from London. The two were married at Martha's home. In contradiction to the common practice of the time for newlyweds to sign prenuptial agreements protecting each party's respective land and property holdings if the other partner were to die or divorce them, Martha and George did not choose to sign such an agreement. Therefore, it is safe to assume that their marriage was built on more than convenience; the two must have trusted each other and perhaps even loved one another. Although Washington's letters to and from Martha were destroyed by her after George's death, George Washington's views on love and marriage can be deduced from letters which he wrote to his adopted children and grandchildren. In a letter to one of Martha's grandchildren, George wrote the following: "Love is a mighty pretty thing; but like all other delicious things, it is cloying; and when the first transports of the passion begins to subside, which it assuredly will do, and yield - oftentimes too late - to more sober reflections, it serves to evince, that love is too dainty a food to live upon alone..." Therefore, Washington, at the very least, believed in the concept of devoted marital love and not simply romantic passion. We can only assume that he lived out this belief in his marriage to Martha Washington.