George Washington's Secret Love Interest

Although Washington married Martha Custis in 1759 and remained faithful to her throughout their long marriage until his death in 1799, there is evidence that he was really in love with another woman both before his marriage to Martha and perhaps afterwards as well. This woman was named Sally Fairfax. Born Sally Cary, the object of George Washington's romantic affections first met George when he was only sixteen and she was a young girl. At this time, Sally helped George to learn some of the practices of higher colonial culture. She also introduced him to the world of higher education, in the form of philosophy and literature. Her assistance probably helped George to gain influence militarily and politically later on in his life. During the French and Indian War, George declared his love to Sally, but urged her to keep it a secret, telling her that "[t]he world has no business to know the object of my love" since George was then engaged to marry Martha Custis. Although he would have first chosen to marry Sally over any other woman, this arrangement would have been impossible, based on their differing social statuses. Sally was born into one of the wealthiest Virginia families. Her father, Colonel Wilson Cary, the plantation owner of Ceelys, would only allow the wealthiest of suitors to vie for her hand in marriage. George, although a successful surveyor and a wildly ambitious young man, had been born into a middle-class planting family in Virginia. Therefore, Sally was married to George William Fairfax, the son of Sir William Fairfax. Ironically, George Fairfax and George Washington were both friends due to the connections that Washington held with the Fairfax family as a result of his older brother Lawrence Washington. Their friendship brought further urgency to Washington's request of Sally that their love be kept a secret. Before she moved to London with her husband, both Sally and George Fairfax would frequently visit the house of George and Martha Washington, maybe indicating that George Washington's and Sally Fairfax's relationship remained flirtatious at most. Sally's life took a turn for the worst after her departure to England. She was never fully accepted by her in-laws, her brother lost the Cary family's fortune, the state of Virginia seized George Fairfax's estate because of his status as a Loyalist, and her husband eventually died in 1787. The widow received her last letter from George Washington in 1798, a year before his death. In this letter, he wrote that nothing could "eradicate from my mind the recollection of those happy moments, the happiest in my life, which I have enjoyed in your company." Therefore, Washington's feelings toward Sally Fairfax had not changed one bit, even at the end of his life. The only evidence of Sally's feelings for George are found in a letter that she wrote to her sister-in-law in 1788, in which she stated that "I know now that the worthy man is to be preferred to the high-born."