George Washington's Will and Legacy

George Washington's last will and testament were finished on July 9, 1799, just a few short months before his death. Washington began writing his will during his second presidential term, when the American political leaders and the public were divided on their opinions of the French Revolution and what action, if any, the United States should take in this international event. Maybe at this time, Washington had become slightly disenchanted with politics and with his role as a leader. Perhaps also he felt that he had served the people of the United States much throughout most of his adult life, and he simply wanted to turn his attention and efforts from the national scene to his own private affairs. Whatever the case, George Washington wrote his will on his own, without any professional help, during his spare time.

According to his will, George Washington's wife, Martha Washington was to receive the majority of all of the land that he owned and be the one to receive any profits received from the lands. Additionally, Martha was to become the owner of all of Washington's death. According to the will, the slaves would then be free upon the death of Martha Washington. Since Martha feared that the slaves might try to cause her death in order to achieve their freedom early, she freed all of George Washington's former slaves shortly after his passing. George Washington left behind more than a will and testament, however. More importantly, this man left behind a great legacy.

Although he was honored and respected by many during his lifetime, the death of George Washington is what really turned him into an iconic figure in American history. Congressman Henry Lee, in his famous eulogy of the late Revolutionary War hero and President, immortalized Washington with his famous description: "First in war-first in peace-and first in the hearts of his countrymen." The biographer Parson Weems wrote a biography of Washington in 1800, just one year after the late President's death. Weem's biography contained such folklore as the story of young George and the cherry tree. Although many of the biography's positive stories of George Washington were fictional, the book was still widely read among American students for years after it was written. Therefore, this biography served to represent Washington as a saint-like national hero. Furthermore, Washington was honored in other ways following his death. In 1879, Washington's Birthday (also called President's Day) was implemented as a federal holiday in the United States. Also, his face is on the U.S. one-dollar bill and the quarter coin. Finally, the national capital of the U.S.A., Washington, D.C., is named after the nation's first President. Its residing Washington Monument was erected in 1827.

Overall, George Washington's role in the origin of the United States and its early history was so crucial that he is, without a doubt, the first true American icon.